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Phuket Opinion: Be proud of our culinary culture

Phuket Opinion: Be proud of our culinary culture

PHUKET: More than a dozen food vendors were recently evicted from beachfront land in Patong to make way for a new building in honour of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. This eviction highlights the sometimes depressing but inevitable trend of the new paving over the old in Patong and elsewhere in the island. While the new building will no doubt be a fitting monument to the late King’s love of yachting, more often such vendors are making way for another multi-national chain restaurant.

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By The Phuket News

Sunday 18 December 2016, 09:00AM


The live street food culture in Phuket is one of the big attractions for many tourists holidaying on the island. Photo: Mark Knowles

The live street food culture in Phuket is one of the big attractions for many tourists holidaying on the island. Photo: Mark Knowles

Oscar Wilde said that all men end up killing what they love, and in the case of mass tourism, it is the tourist that ends up killing the destination they love. Mass tourism inevitably coincides with mass marketing and the implacable market force of mass demand – which has the power to shape any city in its own image.

Thailand is known the world over for its delicious cuisine and no small part of that reputation owes its existence to the countless thousands of vendors roaming the nation’s streets, all specialising in their chosen dishes. As each new multi-national franchise moves in, Phuket inexorably moves towards the fate of becoming just another bland, anonymous “international city”.

I’m not advocating turning back the tide, not that we could, but we need to be proactive in promoting and sustaining our local food culture. Countless cities have faced this problem before us, so we are not short of good solutions and examples to follow. But what comes first is a recognition that it is happening. After that realisation we can begin to see the importance of preserving or creating new spaces, especially in Patong, where small vendors can ply their trade and showcase Phuket’s unique cuisine to the world.

I agree that for many local people in the know, street food and local delicacies are comparatively easy to find. Many tourists however, may pass them by un-tasted because they don’t know where to look or what to ask.

A dedicated, central location for showcasing a wide range of local cuisines, promoted in tourist brochures and guidebooks, would be a boon to the island’s culinary reputation. With an organised layout and mandatory multi-lingual signs, such a place would make a tourist’s journey of discovering our local cuisine that much easier and more inviting.

Let’s just make sure we keep a little bit of that Thai street-life chaos and not make it too bland.  

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Kurt | 19 December 2016 - 17:30:29

Yes, CaptainJack69: Very true, thinks are more structured now, including all the things you mention.
The open air food courts are pleasant.
In china town you can sit outside in the streets ( closed for traffic), and every satellite area has open air food facilities. Very pleasant. But, indeed with health inspections etc.  Time for sure didn't stand still in Singapore.
Food court stand owner...

CaptainJack69 | 19 December 2016 - 13:07:03

@KURT.  All the street vendors in Singapore were rounded up and moved into permanent 'food-court' buildings. Now they pay rent, taxes & social security, they have regular health inspections and are all registered businesses. In this way they still retain a certain amount of "street culture" but are also part of a modern society.

I'm not saying that's what Thailand ...

CaptainJack69 | 19 December 2016 - 12:57:20

While street vendors are an important part of Thailand's culinary culture it's important to understand that they don't contribute to the country in any other way. They don't pay taxes or social security, they don't have insurance, they don't have business permits or food hygiene certificates. They pay little or no rent. If their customers get botulism or salmonella (not unl...

Kurt | 18 December 2016 - 10:28:43

Great what PN wrote about being proactive in promoting and sustaining the local live street food culture.
It makes people earning a living, the quality of food is mostly good, the street ambiance, including the nice food smell, is cozy.
Thai should not throw away their cultural way of doing things. 
Don't make the same mistakes as Singapore did in the 80-ties and 90-ties of last century. 
...

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