11 months ago

July_Aug UK Chef

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If you live in Thailand,

If you live in Thailand, and particularly if you live in Bangkok, you’ll know that the term “street food” has a very elastic definition. In its broadest sense it has less to do with where the food is being served, and more to do with what is being served, how much it costs, and the casual nature of the setting. At its core, street food is the simple, often humble comfort food that regular Thai people eat on a regular basis. Whether it incorporates noodles, rice, meat, fish or vegetables, it’s invariably cheap, flavourful, and usually ready in a few minutes or less. Street vendors pushing wheeled carts full of ready-made snacks such as moo ping (marinated BBQ pork on a skewer) represent street food in its purest form, as theirs is a simple “grab and go” dining experience. Pushcart vendors who set up regularly 32 on public sidewalk space, and assemble a few folding tables and plastic stools around their cart, bring street food to its next level by offering customers an actual place to sit-down. Finally there’s the no-frills, fixed address restaurants that are partially or fully open to the streets, and often have a few tables and chairs—and sometimes even the whole kitchen—spilling out onto their sidewalk space. For some ultra purists only the first two can strictly be considered street food, but for foodies simply interested to know who makes the best pad Thai in town, it’s only relevant whether there’s a roof overhead or not during the rainy season. Interestingly, this “what is and isn’t street food?” argument was raised in earnest in November of 2017 when Michelin launched the first Thailand edition of their famous guidebook. Within its

pages a chapter was given over to Bangkok’s best street food, but due to Michelin’s criteria that all award winners must have a fixed address almost no cart vendors could be included on the list. Meanwhile, some argued that Raan Jay Fai, the lone street food eatery awarded an actual Michelin star, could hardly be considered street food anymore since their signature crab omlette was priced at a whopping THB 1,000 (around US), which is more than some entrées at Bangkok’s five-star hotels! Regardless of the ensuing debates, Chef Jay Fai’s newfound stardom through Michelin immediately intensified worldwide interest in Thailand’s street food scene. To this day her bare bones shophouse eatery at 327 Maha Chai Road, in the heart of Bangkok’s Old Town, has a three-month long waiting list. And with the airing of the new Netflix series Street Food, in which Chef 33 21