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Thai food in London
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  1. #1
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    Thai food in London

    Taste of London
    Of the hundreds of Thai restaurants in London, 'Roi Et' keeps the food authentic and rakes in profits

    BAMRUNG AMNATCHAROENRIT


    Walk along the streets of London these days, and you'll find Thai food is almost everywhere, in both food stalls and restaurants.

    Hundreds of Thai eateries compete head-on with Chinese and Indian restaurants.

    On the surface, Thais may feel pleased that their native cuisine is flourishing overseas, and that spicy dishes such as tom yum kung have become global favourites. But if a Thai were to travel here and eat a 10 pad thai at a posh restaurant, he might wonder if he's eating authentic Thai food.

    Though the image of Thai food is great, globalisation can be blamed for creating a new type of hybrid Thai cuisine. Restaurateurs must cater to the palates of locals, even if that means sacrificing the authentic taste.

    It can also be hard to find the right materials that make dishes work. For example, imported bai ma krood, or kaffir lime leaves, cost UK pound 40 a kilogramme in London.

    A shortage of skilled chefs is another problem. Most of the cooks working here have never taken professional training. They play a limited role in cooking because restaurant owners often shrug off Thai cooking standards when putting menus together.

    Even so, it is not impossible to find original Thai food here. Looking around London at present, a few restaurants offer the real deal. One of them is 101 Thai Kitchen. Known among Thais as Roi Et, this restaurant serves up authentic spicy Thai food such as kaeng tai plah (a southern Thai curry made with fish innards) and som tam pla ra (fermented fish papaya salad).

    Established in late 2004, the restaurant is increasingly popular among Thai students and workers. On Sundays in particular, Roi Et is filled with Thais who choose to enjoy their weekends eating local food, drinking Thai beer and humming along to songs from ''Songs for Life'' stars Carabao.

    Owner Suttichai Se-Upara, 30, says the venture is held by three shareholders, including his wife and uncle. The initial investment was 93,000 (5.9 million baht). He borrowed part of the funds from a local bank, and expects to break even next year.

    ''The business pressure was mounting right after we opened, '' he recalls, laughing. ''The restaurant was very quiet. More often, we had only a few customers a day. My wife and I almost cried every day. We had to operate the restaurant with money from our credit cards. As a result, our credit almost dried up.''

    The competition is intense at present, he says. Ten new Thai restaurants are scheduled to open on his street alone. Even so, he welcomes the competition.

    The engineering graduate is a Roi Et native, while his uncle hails from southern Thailand. As a result, the two can create a variety of Thai regional menus to serve a wider range of customers.

    In the early stages, he said the restaurant's positioning was unclear. The owners were targeting both Thais and non-Thais, but found this didn't work.

    The restaurant started to become known when a small Thai newspaper in London ran an article about it. Word spread and Roi Et's reputation grew.

    This led Mr Suttichai to rethink his strategy. Eventually, he came up with the slogan ''Thai dishes for Thai people''.

    Nowadays, Thai customers make up 70-80% of his clientele, while the rest are foreigners who like original Thai food. The three hit dishes are tom yum kung, pad thai and green chili curry. He also delivers food within the neighbourhood.

    Sales are about 8,500 a week now, a significant jump from between 1,000 and 2,000 in the beginning. With the restaurant's rising popularity, Mr Suttichai expanded the number of seats to 32 from 20. He expects sales to reach 10,000 a week next year.

    It's not too high a target, he says, adding that he can sell more than 9,000 some days. To achieve his goal, Mr Suttichai plans to adopt a new marketing strategy and start offering northern food to attract new customers. At the same time, he will retain the authenticity of all existing dishes.

    Mr Suttichai can often be found walking around London's fresh markets on the lookout for original ingredients. At the fish market, he asks vendors to keep the viscera of sea bass to make keng tai plah. He and his cooks help to make pla ra and curry paste. To keep som tam authentic, he only chooses papayas imported from Thailand; papayas from Bangladesh or India may distort the popular Thai dish.

    Bangkok Post

    ''I am unhappy if the dishes we cook are not complete, '' he says.

  2. #2
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    Re: Thai food in London

    Don, a friend of mine returned to London a few months ago with his Thai wife after living here for 8 years. Already his wife seems to have more Thai friends there than he has English friends - so many Thais there he said.
    She and her new pals get around the problem of not being able to get papaya by substituting it with carrot so they can still eat som tam every day. He says other basic ingredients are not so hard to come by, such as the spices and chili (maybe they are brought down from Newcastle ).
    My wife used to work in a factory in Taiwan and the Thais also used carrot instead of papaya there.
    But since southern Taiwan is still sub-tropical there are some papaya trees and all the Thais would know exactly where they were, because the sight of one would give the a supernatural-like shiver, then they would secretly stake out the papaya tree and when the time was right, do a raid and grab a papaya.
    I suppose it is like the shiver I get when I see potatoes in the local market and pine for chips.

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    Re: Thai food in London

    I live in the fourth largest city in the USA where Thai ingredients (including green papaya) are available in the Asian markets.

    You can substitute rutabagas or turnips for green payaya when you make somtum. Rutabagas taste like green payaya, and they are good source of fiber.

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    Re: Thai food in London

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzie View Post
    I live in the fourth largest city in the USA where Thai ingredients (including green papaya) are available in the Asian markets.

    You can substitute rutabagas or turnips for green payaya when you make somtum. Rutabagas taste like green payaya, and they are good source of fiber.
    I'll pass that on to my friend. His wife will know carrots from Thailand but might not know what a turnip is (less sweet too, maybe). I've never seen them in the markets here.

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    Re: Thai food in London

    my american friend said thai food is very good ,but it expensive also

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