Part 2, Street-Food Crisis in Bangkok: Panic, Hoarding and General Pandemonium :-)

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Let there be food on the street…

 

Continued from previous…

Solution: Ever heard of ‘night markets’? That’s what occurs when a few food vendors gather in the same area, after sundown, and it becomes a kind of makeshift food court, or much much more, and far preferable to sidewalk usurpers who become our—the pedestrian’s—mediator between life and death. Whenever these stalls are organized, everyone benefits, in hygiene, safety, diversity and organization. Apparently that’s what the Bangkok government wants to do…

But the idea that street food is Bangkok’s best food is ludicrous. That’s like saying that America’s best food is KFC. Of course, part of the problem is definition. What passes for ‘street food’ in CNN’s next ’23 best’ are nothing like Bangkok, including New Orleans, which by Bangkok standards has NO street food, ditto Istanbul, or Paris, or Cairo, Marrakesh or Mexico City, all places that I know personally. Their sidewalks aren’t taken over by sidewalk seating and eating, just Bangkok, and much of Asia…

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Morning market haul

 

And the narrative that this is where poor people eat is absolute BS. This is where tourists eat, and tuk-tuk drivers, and working women, many occupying seats for hours at the time. People on a tight budget eat in the market, with much better food, cheaper prices and reasonable hours. According to a local hack:

“It’s what’s for breakfast, lunch and supper: market food, not to be confused with ‘street food’, to which it is superior and more varied IMHO, including famous Thai curries, which are almost NEVER found on the street (read: sidewalk). Here is a typical morning market haul: spicy southern coconut-based curry (30B), northern tomato-based hot sauce ‘nam prik aung’ (20B), stir-fried chicken w/ ginger (20B), and sticky (glutinous) rice (20B). If I’d bought 25B worth of rice, instead of 20B, it would’ve lasted me all day, 95B = less than $3. Try that with ‘street food.’ เต็มอิ่มแซบ

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Mango & sticky rice, unavailable on street

But street food is all about timing: the morning rush hour, the noon lunch hour, and then the late-night crowd, much of it going all night long, and with much alcohol, and loud noises that won’t let paying hotel customers sleep, ahem. It’s a mess, and I congratulate the Thai government on trying to institute some order in the chaos that is Bangkok, not just sidewalks, but highways, by-ways and hospitals, too…

Thailand is a special and unique place that unfortunately teeters on the brink of a precipice much or most of the time. A little guidance from above, if properly administered, can’t hurt. So, in a way, the street food hubbub is fake news, since the edict refers to the streets, not the food. Anything available on the street is also available many other places, and better quality with better hygiene, and vastly greater selection…

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‘Ais Kacang’ aka ABC in Malaysia

If the PR had read “Bangkok Outlaws Street Vending” instead of “Bangkok Outlaws Street Food”, which is more accurate, then nobody would likely have their undies caught up in the unfathomable chasm of an atomic wedgie. Everybody knows you can’t outlaw food. And the original article is full of false facts, too, like Bangkok’s ‘Chinatown’ being called ‘Yarowat’–wrong, it’s ‘Yaowarat’, idiot bloggers, haha…

But the street is where tourists hang, off and on, usually for lack of other knowledge, and/or better options. And it needs to be shared, not claimed as sacred turf, nor reduced to scared turf. Any vacant lot is a potential night market, and we can always use a few more of those, movable feast, indeed. I suspect much of this sk(r)ewed narrative is from a certain author who wants to sell a new book for ‘foodies’…

Original CNN listing of ‘street food’ Meccas: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/08/08/foodanddrink/best-cities-street-food/index.html

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