Most people are looking forward to a brighter future, but for two bar owners in Chinatown, recipes from the past are providing a way to survive in a suddenly rocky present. 

Less than a week into 2021, after the government banned on-site alcohol sales at bars and restaurants—the second time in the past 10 months that the taps have been turned off at the city’s watering holes—Niks Anuman-Rajadhon and Gunn Leelhasuwan have had to quickly pivot.

Together, the two masterminds behind popular Soi Nana bars Teens of ThailandAsia Today, Tax, and Black King have launched DSI, short for Dim Sum International, an ad hoc project using recipes for old-school shumai (pork dumplings) to help unemployed bartenders pay their bills.

Rather than carving ice or shaking up craft cocktails, their bartenders have found themselves preparing plump, porky dumplings by hand for delivery (B10/pc.). They are also selling kanom jeen nam ngiew (B85), northern Thai laab (B100), and cold brew coffee (B75).

According to Gunn, the two partners had previously discussed opening a bar that served dim sum and drinks, which they claim would have been the first of its kind in Bangkok. “We talked about opening something like this around Charoenkrung a long time ago. But now, selling dim sum is just for our own survival,” he says. 

“I don’t want my staff to have false hope and have to rely on social security to make ends meet, either.”

Gunn says the project is doing well enough to help their businesses stay afloat for the time being, although he admits they are just one week into a dry spell that has no clear end date. The short-term ban on alcohol sales in April last year was regularly extended. Ultimately, it was not lifted for bars and restaurants until June. That kept bars like theirs closed for nearly a quarter of the year.

That experience has informed Gunn’s thoughts on the present situation.

However bleak extended closures may seem, he believes all bar owners need to adapt. “[You can’t] just wait and hope for someone to help you, whether it’s from the government or other organizations. Bar owners need to do whatever they can to survive and take care of their employees,” he declares. “Don’t give up."  

Orders can be made via Dim Sum International’s Instagram page and official Line account (@yologroup)