Krungthep is a city that eats on its feet. Thais have this snacking habit, unintentionally following the “five small meals a day” advice that so many weight-watchers hear. Whether a mid-morning snack of khanom krok, little salty-sweet rice flour and coconut milk pancakes, an afternoon snack of freshly sliced tropical fruit, or a quick bowl of guaytiaw – rice noodles – to stave off hunger, there is always plenty to choose from along a Thai sidewalk.
This picture accurately captures a dilemma that is increasingly common here in Thailand. Alongside the plethora of street vendors is an equally-abundant number of convenience stores. The difference between the two is not price – neither the 7-11 snacks nor the ones from street vendors will bust your budget – but quality.
“Fast food” when it comes from street vendors is made from fresh ingredients, is very rarely more than a few minutes (or at most a few hours) old, has no preservatives, and generally is more nutrient-dense than calorie-dense. “Fast food” when it comes from the convenience stores and Western fast food chains that are increasingly common is quite the opposite, offering few redeeming values other than a quick way to expand your waistline.
And, sadly, that expanding waistline is just what we’re seeing. Childhood obesity is growing rapidly in Thailand and especially here in Krungthep you see more and more children who are wearing X-Large size school uniforms.
In the months to come, I’d like to write more about Thai street vendors and snacks. They are often a bit self conscious when it comes to taking pictures, but I’ll look for some opportunities to share with you more about the foods we eat here.