The words “farm-to-table” or “locavore” have become ubiquitous buzz words in the restaurant industry. This is a good thing. When restaurants base their menus around locally produced ingredients everybody benefits. The farmers, ranchers, and fishermen in the local economy all benefit from more revenue. The restaurant guests benefit from fresher better tasting food.
And, most importantly, we all benefit from reduced fossil fuel consumption and smaller carbon footprints. Thankfully, this trend is making major inroads into Asia. Here are four restaurants leading the charge.
Banker-turned-chef/restaurateur L.G. Han opened this Singaporean eatery as a tribute to his grandmother’s cooking and, by extension, Singaporean cuisine as a whole. 90 percent of Labyrinth’s menu is made with locally grown produce. Meats and seafood are sourced from a highly selective roster of local suppliers. On each table there is even a map explaining the exact origins of the ingredients, down to the specific farms.
He’s commissioned local artists to design postcards that explain the story behind each entrée. Even the music on the sound system is by local musicians. Naturally, it all shines thorough spectacularly on the menu with dishes like homemade lapcheong with barley, pickled bak choy, and burnt rice “nori” or clay pot “ang moh” chicken rice with local mushrooms and “Grandma’s chilli sauce”.
Haoma, Bangkok, Thailand
This self-described “Neo-Indian” restaurant in Bangkok lives by a strict “no pesticides” and “no antibiotics” policy. Fresh produce, meat, and fish are sourced from rigorously vetted farmers and fishermen in the Bangkok area. Many or the restaurant’s sources are partner farms that are personally monitored by Haoma’s chefs, too.
Not only that, the restaurant itself is a source for ingredients. There is a garden on the premises featuring aquaponics towers and planters lush with fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices. These ingredients are then showcased in unique presentations, like a local melon terrine with tom kha sorbet or locally raised fish in a dashi broth with locally grown greens.
Sharky’s, Yangon, Myanmar
Sharky’s founder Ye Htut Win is a pioneering figure in Myanmar’s locavore movement. Nearly every ingredient used in the restaurant is produced domestically by partner farmers who are given strict specifications from Ye Htut Win himself. It thus follows that Sharky’s values artisanal, handmade food. Pasta is hand-made with stone-ground flours from heritage grains. They serve their own cured meats. Their buffalo mozzarella is made from Myanmar buffalo, and they serve locally made brie. Sharky’s even sources sea salt from salt flats in Ngapali. What’s more impressive is that Ye Htut Win has been at it since 1996!
Locavore, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
This Ubud gem literally does what it says on the package. Over 95% of what comes out of the kitchen is made with Indonesian ingredients. Owners Ray Adriansyah and Eelke Plasmeijer are deeply conscientious about their carbon footprint, sourcing vegetables locally, seafood from Eastern Indonesia, and domestically produced coffee. Their salt is collected from salt flats in northern Bali. Spices are harvested from the mountainous regions of the island.
They carefully source meat and poultry as well, completely rejecting the factory farming model and insisting on free-range animals raised on natural foods and dispensed with ethically and respectfully. The results on the menu are exciting and unique. Think: dishes like goat live mousse with pickled wild berries, cured smoked goat heart and rosella kombucha vinaigrette or roasted quail breast with ginger cinnamon butter, barbecued glazed quail leg, smoked pumpkin and charred pineapple gel.
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