Thai food scene in the vast metropolis that is the capital city of Bangkok looks unbelievably different today compared to even just a few short years ago. It often seems like Thailand’s authorities work on a constant cycle for setting out to sanitise the street food scene for which the Thai capital is known and loved worldwide, and life under the military regime in power since 2014’s coup has seen more than its usual share of attempts to supposedly ‘return the pavements to the people’ and clear out those elements seen as undesirable.
So it was that the latest round of dramatic headlines announced that street food would be cleared from the streets of Bangkok, ricocheting across the globe as media outlets and individual foodies worldwide worried that they might have already had their last fix of delicious, authentic Thai street food – something which anyone who has ever tried it knows you simply can’t ever get enough of. Well, in spite of what certain self-appointed experts may claim online, let’s place this on the record right from the pavements of Bangkok: the street food is still here. You can rest easy, for now at least.
That’s all without mentioning the fact that street food is, far beyond its deservingly beloved status among both overseas visitors and affluent Thai and foreign residents, first and foremost a livelihood for the vendors and pretty much a life-or-death matter for the millions of working-class residents who rely on street stalls to provide access to low-cost, filling dishes that they can afford on minimum wage or thereabouts.
Many of the instances of street food being pushed off main streets have occurred in typically busy and congested downtown areas, which so happen to be areas popular with and most often frequented by foreign tourists as well as residents living in expatriate-heavy neighbourhoods. This goes some way to explain the on-balance-misplaced alarm expressed by some such tourists and residents online, insisting that ‘there’s no street food left in Bangkok’ and displaying distrust of those of us who claim otherwise. Take a wander around a local Bangkok neighbourhood that’s even ever so slightly more in the sticks, though, and you’ll find that the street food game there is still pretty much business as normal. (If you want to do this, countless such areas are still within easy reach of the Skytrain and subway, and in any case, they were always among some of the best places to head for truly great street food.)
For now, almost all of Bangkok’s renowned street food is still safe, but the message is clear: it’s still under constant and immense threat. If you value it, feast on it while you still can.