In a Thai friend group, anyone who vacations to Thailand is always tasked with buying ingredients or foods to bring back to family or friends. It's expected. But as the Talat Market pop up grew, it was getting near impossible to get my family and friends who fly to Thailand to bring me back enough ingredients.
I used to rely on specialty markets that sell southeast Asian ingredients. At First Oriental Market, for example, I would go for the sauces or plates I needed, but I would always check out the small produce area and see if they have hard-to-find ingredients like water spinach, or holy or lemon basil.
But eventually, I knew Talat Market needed a more reliable, steady source for specialty Thai ingredients. I started scheming.
First, I found what specialty seeds I could from Asian markets. Then, I totally hypothetically, possibly, maybe, could have, snuck some seeds in from Thailand. Finally, I needed to find a farmer who was excited about the produce and would try to grow it and sell to us.
It took a while, but Talat Market had some really special partnerships with some of our growers. We first found a partner with Nicolas from Crystal Organic Farm, when he agreed to grow water spinach and cilantro root for us. Woodland Gardens also jumped on board, growing grachai as an experiment for us. If you ate at our pop up at Gato, you ate some of the results of these partnerships.
We have more partnerships in the works, and we can't wait to do more with the farmer community. Having access to these delicious and hard to find ingredients in Georgia is a dream come true for us, allowing us to stay true to Thai technique while still supporting the local food economy.
ps - a footnote, more detail to come:
The climate in the south of Florida is similar to the climate of southeast Asia. There are numerous Lao, Thai, and Burmese communities in the area, and they are growing Lao, Thai, and Burmese produce that is familiar to them.
Our continuing mission is to shift our menu closer and closer to the way food tastes in Thailand. I think that this goal is what makes us different from every other Thai restaurant in Atlanta. Our next step in this plan is to start developing relationships with these communities down in south Florida, and see if we can connect to start having access to even more rare Thai ingredients for our restaurant. Stay tuned!