Event Recap: Sen Yai Sen Lek Offers Local Food - Thai Style

Simple, Good, and Tasty's March event (above photo by Kate NG Sommers), held on Tuesday March 22 at Sen Yai Sen Lek in Minneapolis, offered local food with a twist. The ninety plus people in attendance were treated to a local food-based Thai tasting menu, including green papaya salad, Fischer Farms pork Isaan salad, dried Thousand Hills beef, curried egg noodles with beef, and stir fried noodles with Kadejan chicken. The meal was not what comes to mind for most people when they think about local food in Minnesota (no walleye, buttered bread, or wild rice!), and we were thrilled about it.

Restaurant owner Joe Hatch-Surisook, born in Minnesota to Thai parents, started out by introducing Todd Lein from Thousand Hills Cattle Company and farmers Josh and Rama from Turnip Rock Farm. Joe discussed the fact that his menu is traditional in many ways, and that - other than the specials he serves - his challenge is to find great ingredients for traditional Thai dishes year-round in Minnesota. In some cases, he has encouraged farmers to grow Asian varieties of vegetables specifically for his restaurant.

Joe also spoke eloquently about his desire to change the perception that Asian restaurants should be more focused on price than quality (Joe was quick to highlight other restaurants in town that source local ingredients - Rainbow Chinese, Tanpopo Noodle Restaurant, and Ngon Vietnamese Bistro). Even Joe's mother, as it turns out, derided him for selecting such expensive ingredients when he opened Sen Yai Sen Lek - until she tried the food, which she said was just like she remembered it back in Thailand.

Although the meal was described as three courses, a full 10 delicious dishes were served family style over the course of our three-hour meal. Those of us who were lucky enough to be there left the event with full bellies, new favorites, good friends, and excitement for next month's local food event at Common Roots. We hope to see you there.

Lee Zukor is the founder of Simple, Good, and Tasty. Email him at