In the “Bangkok black and white days” of the 60’s, there were no fancy Thai restaurants. If one wanted a fine dining experience, there were Chinese restaurants galore and the Normandy Grill in the Oriental Hotel. If one wanted Thai food, you ate in the street which was as natural as popping into a fast food restaurant in the western world. Studies indicate that in Bangkok some 20,000 street food venders provide residents with 40% of their food and two-thirds of the households eat at least one meal a day on the street. Various international publications, including the Huffington Post, have covered the Bangkok city announcement to ban street food from the main roads in Bangkok by the end of the year. In fact, a chief advisor to Bangkok’s governor said the city was outlawing the sale of street food one week after CNN named Bangkok the world’s best street food destination.
Nothing better describes Thai street food than to borrow a quote from Chef Emeril Legasse - "BAM". There is such a wide range of street food available from hawkers walking along carrying their products over their shoulders, to push carts and to the elegance of Jae Fai restaurant which is shown below. Jason Friedman, world re-known hotelier and captain of The Elephant Story elephant polo team, is shown with Joey and the author on his right and Charity and our dear friend Khun Suphapong on his left.
One look at the table on the sidewalk and you would not believe Jae Fai created these culinary delights in such a small cooking space.
On a very recent Sunday in Bangkok, Khun Suphapong and I looked desperately for a noodle vendor on the street to no avail. We assumed it was just because it was Sunday but the crackdown had obviously begun. A typical noodle vendor would be adjacent to a source of cold beverages. Do not be shocked that the coke box next to the noodle cart has cold Singha beer nestled in the ice as well.
Lastly, it is perfectly normal to pick up a quick som tam salad snack from a hawker.
Therefore, the street food capital of the world offers a complete range of serving facilities for some of the best food anywhere. On the face of it, it would appear that 40% of the food supply for the city is facing doomsday. However, in a recent Bangkok Post, the Governor of Bangkok is beginning to back pedal a bit. In fact, previous governments have threatened similar action so as to establish more order in the otherwise crowded city.
On the other hand, anyone who has suffered through Bangkok traffic knows there is no such thing as public order. Moreover, way deep down, the Buddhism of this country coupled with the prevailing Thai “may pen rai” (never mind attitude) more than offset government ideals to result in a passivism that is unique. Therefore, the author believes this issue is merely a bump in the foodie road that will be solved in reasonably short order to enable us to grab a quick bowl of noodles and a beer on our next visit.