Papaya salad, grilled chicken, sticky rice, pad Thai - take your pick, whenever and wherever. This is just a slice of a special food culture that sustains our lively city. However, recently the subject of shutting it down has engendered much brouhaha across town. We asked a few notable names in high society to weigh in on a vague government initiative to clean the streets of food stalls. Here’s what they said:
“Everyone living in Bangkok has to have some kind of love for street food. It’s not always the healthiest option, but I love the convenience of being able to quickly satisfy my Thai food cravings off the streets of soi Aree. I love how easy it is to be able to just pick up a delicious fresh coconut off the roadside. My kids are big fans of grilled chicken and sticky rice.”
Prair, the owner of Prest Juice, has a background in holistic nutrition but even she surrenders to street food every now and then. For the 29-year-old, a more organised form of street food and more cleanliness would not be a bad idea, but the thought of Bangkok’s street food stalls disappearing for communities would be catastrophic. The health advocate fears people turning to cheap and convenient fast food chains, which present much greater health risks.
Waan Pithansombat Booth
“It’s a horrible idea. Thailand is a country known for its delicious street food, and the street food trend is derived from this part of the world. If the government were to one day take this away, they would also be taking away the country’s lifestyle.”
One of the directors of MAIIAM contemporary museum in Chiang Mai, Waan is also a foodie who enjoys a variety of street food dishes, such as yentafo, tom yum and bamee kiew moo dang. The case of food stall closures reminds her of when Pak Klong Talad, Bangkok’s historical flower market, was closed and how sad it was to see a beautiful gem of Bangkok taken away. In this instance too, vendors were asked to relocate.
“It is the true flavours of the country and really represents the soul of the people. I do understand the reasoning behind the government’s initiative to improve cleanliness. Hygiene is important but to be honest, it’s the gritty and raw mood of street dining that makes it special and gives it character.”
The managing director of the family-owned, multi-award-winning Sri Panwa, Vorasit "Wan" Issara sees street food as an indispensible part of the nation’s culture. To Wan, an alternative for the government should be to educate and train the vendors on issues of health, safety and waste management.
“When reading social media or certain press, one could almost think that the government had published a plan to ban Thai street food as whole, erasing food culture of the country, which isn’t the case. Many street food carts provide food of poor nutritional quality and under bad conditions. Think of raw meat in the sun or everything washed in the same bucket with dirty water, which is then poured onto the street along with used cooking oil."
The managing director of the Water Library group has a few go-to street food spots that he regularly enjoys but Oliver offers valuable insight on the exaggerated nature of the supposed government ban on street food.
"The problem isn’t the ban that is targeted at a few parts of the city. The issue is that the government needs to offer a sound plan for these food providers by relocating them to a place where they can offer their food in a clean and hygienic surrounding, as done in other parts of the world.”