Regarding street food, all visitors to Thailand are divided into two camps: those who are sure that such treats are dangerous, and those who boldly try them. Firstly, street food is a great way to get acquainted with Thai cuisine and fully immerse yourself in the authentic atmosphere of the country. CNN named Bangkok the city with the best street food for two years in a row, and Phuket became the “UNESCO City of Gastronomy”. Secondly, street food in Thailand is the best way to save money. Only you can determine your level of disgust for food stalls. I will tell you all the subtleties and nuances, teach you to be attentive and see the hidden details. Perhaps I will inspire you to take a fresh look at the tops.
What is street food in Thailand?
You can get to know one of the sides of real Thailand by getting acquainted with street food. On stalls and in family cafes, dishes are prepared that you will not find in expensive restaurants: fried insects, roti pancakes, steamed dumplings, all kinds of kebabs, traditional desserts. Let’s see what is included in the term “street food in Thailand”.
History of street food in Thailand
As far back as the Ayutthaya period, merchants sold fruits, snacks, desserts and traditional dishes from boats in floating markets. During the reign of Rama V, at the beginning of the 20th century, kiosks and carts began to appear on the busiest streets of Bangkok. The popularity of street food was brought by the rapid growth of the urban population in the 60s and 70s. Home shops and cafes located on the first floors of shophouses began to offer various Thai dishes. Some specialized in a couple of dishes cooked to order, others sold ready-made food with rice or in takeaway bags, the menu of others was full of variety. Particularly active merchants delivered snacks and desserts on carts through remote streets. This is how the culture of street food in Thailand was born.
What is included in Thai street food?
It should be understood that Thai street food is much more than just a grandmother selling pies near the subway. The list can include stationary kiosks, canteens, dumplings, barbecues, cafeterias, outdoor verandas, culinary and other indoor establishments. Street food in Thailand includes fruit and dessert carts, yoke cart vendors, motorbike kitchens, market stalls, street food stalls with plastic tables, home cafes, food courts, food courts, kopitiams, canteens with ready meals and even some air conditioned restaurants. As you can see, there is no clear boundary.
Wall of honor of a street macaron with newspaper clippings and photos
Street food for Thais is not synonymous with savings. They just like everything that tastes good. In Phuket Town, you can often see expensive cars parked near completely unpresentable cafes, where the average bill is 100-150 baht per person. Rich Thais do not pay attention to the interior and surroundings, the main thing is taste. It’s such a rule. Bangkok is full of street restaurants that have been around for 60-100 years, where locals have been going for generations, regardless of their financial condition. Read about them in a separate article>>>
A wall of honor for a street macaron with recommendation stickers from Wongnai and Tripadvisor
Cleanliness, sanitation and freshness of products
Street carts (makashnitsa) and stalls, as well as small family cafes and buffets selling takeaway food, are not controlled with the same strictness as is customary. Sanitation standards are slightly different here. In some places, all the dishes are washed in one basin with soapy water and dried right next to a busy road. Thais, indeed, pay little attention to sanitary conditions. Cutlery is usually kept in one place: either in a box on the table or in containers somewhere in the corner. It will be useful if you wipe the cutlery with a napkin.
Clear Food Good Taste
Every morning, the owners of street catering buy vegetables and meat, you can be sure of their freshness. Restaurants usually make preparations that are stored in the refrigerator for several days. The more people in the street cafe, the more likely it is that the products are not stale. On street stalls, all dishes are cooked in front of you, you can watch the process. Even in home cafes, the kitchen is often located in front of the entrance so that it is not hot from the stove. In restaurants, you don’t see sanitary conditions in the kitchen, there are places where it’s scary to go into the kitchen. The probability of food poisoning in establishments with an average price tag of 300 baht and on street stalls is about the same. Choose those macarons where the Thais themselves buy food. The locals always know where to find delicious food.
Some cafes hang out their certificate in the most prominent place.
Street food safety in Thailand
For nearly 30 years, the Thai Ministry of Health has been leading several street food safety projects. They began to give certificates to restaurants, cafes and macaroons that meet certain criteria for cleanliness and sanitation. In addition, random quality checks are carried out every year, and the certificate is validated every two months.
Attach the certificate in a conspicuous place
The most common certificate is Clean Food Good Taste. Hundreds of thousands of family cafes have received this award. Not everyone will pass the ministerial check. How to get such a certificate? Street food owners must strictly control the cleanliness of chefs’ clothes, the presence of a cap or hairnet, the quality of spices, food additives, sanitation in the workplace, the cleanliness of dishes and containers for storing food and cutlery. In such establishments, drinking water is used, and not from the tap, ice for drinks and desserts is edible, dishes are washed properly, meat and seafood are stored under certain conditions. In addition, the ministry controls the height of the workplace and shelves for storing dishes and ready meals. And the most important thing is that every two months they undergo mandatory testing according to various bacteriological criteria.
Wall of honor of the family cafe
All home cafes and macaques are proud of such a certificate and hang it in a conspicuous place. And also there are other awards from the Thai Ministry of Health: Clean Food Good Taste Plus , Healthy Menu , Bangkok Food Safety City , Clean Fresh Market . It is worth remembering that the absence of such a certificate does not mean unsanitary conditions. Just a cafe or restaurant did not apply.
Try to find all rewards
Travel guide awards and celebrity ratings
Thais are very greedy for advertising of various establishments by national stars, celebrities, publications in magazines, newspapers and guidebooks. If a celebrity visits the restaurant, photos with the owner will immediately be posted on social networks and hung in a frame on the wall. Of course, the first place among the expected guests is occupied by members of the royal family. Each cafe owner will be proud that a princess, queen or the king himself came to him.
Princess Sirindon pours coffee
Many guidebooks recommend certain street food stalls for authentic taste. The Lonely Planet and Rough Guide make lists not only of expensive restaurants, but also of street food. Of the online guides, reader ratings are TripAdvisor and the Thai resource Wongnai. They mainly specialize in restaurants, occasionally in a home cafe you can also see a “Readers’ Choice” sticker.
This is what sanitation certificates, awards and recommendations look like
Michelin star street food
Many stalls on the streets and family cafes have honorary awards from Thai gourmets. Professor Tossapol Jangpanichkul is known in Thailand not only as a culinary critic, but also as the president of the historical museum of relics, the author of several books, including gastronomic guides. He himself visits cafes and macaques, evaluates food and, if the institution is worthy, issues his Aroijang award .
Wall of Honor of a street macaron with an Aroijang award
A true Michelin star for Thai street food was founded by Thanadsri Svasti, who is called the “Godfather of gastronomy”. Born into a royal family, he was introduced to haute cuisine as a child. His mother cooked for Rama V’s wife. His writing career was launched by Shell Petroleum, who supported the production of a food guide advertising cooking gas. In 1961, he published the first Shell Chuan Chim (Shell Dining Guide) column in the Siam Rath newspaper. Tanadsi also had a radio cooking show and several TV programs. His reward, a green cup of Shell Chuan Chim, can be found in family cafes in Bangkok.
Green Cup Shell Chuan Chim
The son of the Godfather of Gastronomy, Sirichalerm Svasti, known as the chef of McDang, also grew up in the royal palace and has become one of Thailand’s most famous culinary experts. The Thai food expert studied at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. He has written several books and founded his own McDang Guide awards for street food.
Award and inclusion in the McDang Guide food guide
In search of delicious and inexpensive Thai food, do not bypass macaroons and homemade cafes. To find real hidden gems, look for stickers on carts, reward signs on trays, photographs on walls, and framed newspaper clippings. So you will taste authentic Thai dishes, surrounded by many years of history. Bon Appetit!