• The World's 50 Best Restaurants

Fishermen to fruit sellers: meet the people making Thailand's cuisine one of the best in the world

Sofie Lisby

27/01/2017

The banana stall seller and the barbecue cart owner are mainstays of bustling Bangkok – anyone who's spent time in the city will have seen them on street corners or wheeling their wares through busy intersections.

Together with an army of fishermen, farmers and deliverymen, they form the backbone of Thailand's food chain. Come along as we talk with them about their trades.

 

The fisherman: Jonat

Jonat-blog-Thai

“I’m originally from Chiang Saen in north-eastern Thailand but after learning about the fishing business from a friend of mine I decided it was a better living than what rice farming could give me. So I travelled with my friend to Rayong and got a job on a squid-fishing boat.

I've been fishing squid for 35 years and a lot has changed during that time. We used to be able to fill the hull in just a couple of hours but now we have to sail further and stay longer. Sometimes we're at sea for up to six days.

Once the 250kg haul is met, we coordinate with the other boats so we don't all return at the same time. That way we can keep the prices up. We sell at around 35-40 baht per kilo to a middleman.

My crew is paid on commission, which can be hard during low season but it means they work extra hard during high season from October to March.”


The fruit seller: Muay

Muay-blog-Thai

“I started coming to this market when I was just seven years old, helping my mother with her fruit stall. Back then, the area looked completely different – there were only trees and none of the buildings you see today.

We buy fruit fresh every day from either Talad Sri Mum Mueng in Rangsit or from Pak Klong Talad – I’ve been using the same suppliers for years. We sell both local and imported products and I have trusted suppliers for both.

I'm usually here from 4am and whatever we don't sell I take back to my house in the evening. Due to the location on Silom Road, my customers are both tourists and locals living in the area.”


The ice deliveryman: To

To-blog-Thai

“I've been working in this shop for about two years and before that I was working for an ice manufacturer. The ice is delivered twice per day in large blocks and we keep it cool by covering it with plastic. Like this, it can stay cool for up to 24 hours. We cut the ice into smaller blocks or crush it, depending on what the customers want, and I deliver it in sacks. I make my first delivery round at around 4am and the last one around 4pm.

I never liked school so I gave it up and started working at 15. I like this work, it gives me freedom and I can build a relationship with our customers.”

 

The seafood seller: Pa Somchit

Pa-blog-Thai

Pa Somchit (right) with her husband


“I was born in Suphanburi, central Thailand, where my family is also from. I used to be a rice farmer but it was hard to make a living, so after marrying we moved to Bangkok to find other work. We started a street food stall but there were so many regulations, we decided to find a permanent stall in a market instead. That’s how we started selling seafood more than 30 years ago.

My day starts around midnight when I go to Talad Saphan Pla Krungthep on Chaloen Krung Road. After buying my wares, I come here to prepare the stall so I’m ready when the first customers come around 5 or 6am. We close around noon and I go home to rest.”



The street food cook: Ko

Ko-blog-Thai

“My first experience selling street food was helping my brother with his stall in Lad Prao, but after a while I wanted to start my own businesses. In the beginning I bought everything readymade but I figured I could do it better myself so I started to experiment with different marinades. I won’t tell you the exact recipe but it has soy sauce, coriander root, garlic and sweet soy sauce.

I sell my first chicken thighs at around 5am and the last one around 10:30am. Then I go to Klong Toey market to buy the next day's produce, which I marinate overnight. I work six days a week; Monday is my day off because of the local government regulations to keep the streets free of stalls on Mondays.”


The 50 Best chef and restaurateur: Ian Kittichai, Issaya Siamese Club

Ian-blog-Thai

“My culinary career started when I was a kid, helping my mother sell curries in the local market. After finishing high school in Bangkok, I went to London to study English and it was there that I realised I wanted to become a chef. After attending culinary school in London, I returned to Bangkok and started working at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Over the years, I have opened restaurants in many parts of the world but it wasn't until 2013 that a long-time dream came true and I was able to open a Thai restaurant in my home country: Issaya Siamese Club.”

 


Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2017 will be announced in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday 21st FebruaryFor interviews, photos and videos, like our Facebook page, follow us on Instagram or use the #Asias50Best hashtag on Twitter.

  • Sofie Lisby