DeRusha Eats: The Next Local Food Trend – Locally Sourced Ethnic

Last week a local food writer sent me a bunch of questions about the locavore movement, and what I thought the future of it is. I think the era of going to a place specifically known for local sourcing is nearly over, and instead we’re entering a time where diners expect restaurant owners and chefs to source from local farms when possible. That means some items will be local, some won’t, but when it’s tomato season in Minnesota, we’ll expect local tomatoes.

Which brings me to the trend. Food writers love trend alerts! I think the next local food trend to explode will be locally sourced ethnic food. We have a ton of fantastic ethnic restaurants in the Twin Cities, but let’s be honest, the sourcing of their meats and vegetables is rarely disclosed. And based on the quality of some of the food, perhaps that’s a good thing.

This past weekend my family and I ate at Sen Yai Sen Lek, the Thai restaurant on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis. There’s a little sign on the table that indicates where they source their meats and vegetables from: the pork is from Fischer Farms, the beef is from Thousand Hills. And the food is incredible.

We started with the Po Pia Sod, fresh Thai spring rolls ($5.95). Two spring rolls, wrapped in a thick rice paper—my son called it a “blanket.” The texture was delicious, and the chunks of ground pork were substantial. So many spring rolls just taste like gross refridgerated cucumbers slices, but this was delicious, served with a tamarind sauce that was intriguingly fruity.

My wife and I shared the Yum Goong, a shrimp salad that could have used a touch more heat. But the mint, lemongrass, and lime dressing made for a nice, slightly sweet and fresh-tasting dish, perfect with the sticky rice ($10.95).

I love that the Children’s Options (all $5.95) are substantial, real food. My four-year-old had the sticky rice, raw carrots, and fried chicken wings—which were fantastic. My six-year-old went with the Kid Noodles—delicious stir fried rice noodles with big chunks of fresh broccoli.

Sen Yai Sen Lek opened in late 2008, joining Rainbow Chinese as another great ethnic Minneapolis restaurant that uses a lot of local ingredients. There’s no reason for there to be a distinction in ingredient quality when we’re talking about different types of restaurants: I want my hot dog to be made of top-quality fresh ingredients, just like I want my pork shank and my Thai food. I’m willing to pay more for the quality, what about you?

Sen Yai Sen Lek
2422 Central Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418