"If street food was the only choice of food available, I wouldn't live here" - Teacher Mark on the ajarn Facebook page.
I suspect this article is going to be controversial but there's a perfectly good reason for writing it. What is it about Thai street food that brings tourists, travelers and even long-term Thailand expats to virtual orgasm? I would genuinely love to know why.
I don't dislike Thai street food but I only eat it once or twice a month and it's usually out of necessity rather than by choice. But occasionally I do enjoy something like a ‘khao man gai' (boiled chicken over rice) or a khao mook gai' (Muslim style chicken and yellow rice)
Street food can certainly hit the spot when you're feeling peckish.
Street food to go
I've got street food on my mind because my wife has just arrived home from work with a couple of plastic bags of ‘khao moo daeng' - red pork over rice with some sort of accompanying sauce, a few slices of cucumber and what looks like half a boiled egg.
My wife thinks she's doing me a favor (God bless her) because I rather cocked up the weekend's supermarket shopping and I've almost run out of food.
No, honestly, I do appreciate the gesture.
After wrestling with the elastic band ties for several minutes, I pour the contents of the plastic bags on to two good-size dinner plates. First the rice, then the pork, and finally the egg and cucumber are arranged on top.
I have to say it looks like the most unappetizing plate of food I've ever seen and two minutes in the microwave does very little to improve things.
Oh, they're 'nubbins'
Before I take the first mouthful, I want to spend a moment analyzing exactly what sits on the plate.
There are five ‘nubbins' of red pork. They are not large enough to be called ‘pieces' so I'm going to refer to them as ‘nubbins'. And those five nubbins sit atop a clump of lumpy, bumpy low-grade rice. And that's basically it.
Half a boiled egg and a few slices of cucumber aren't going anywhere near saving the day here.
I separate the red pork on the plate so I can get a clearer picture of exactly how much ‘meat' the customer is getting for their 40 baht. I know pork. I buy it every week at my local supermarket and pay about 50 baht for three decent size fillet steaks.
By my reckoning, there is barely three baht's worth of pork on my plate.
You often hear people talk about street food and immediately start gushing over the cost - "oh it's so cheap", "it's such terrific value for money" Now hold on a minute.
Let's dispel the first myth about street food. It isn't cheap. Not when you weigh up the vendor's buying costs and the overall quality of what you're getting. Words like ‘cheap' and ‘bargain' go straight out of the window.
In street food's defence, I suppose there is a time and a place for it. There is certainly a place. Funny how street food instantly looks and tastes better when it's eaten at the curb-side whilst choking on noxious exhaust fumes and surrounded by stray dogs, all sitting in a semi-circle with that look of hopeful expectancy.
And of course, street food should only be served by a vendor with enough dirt under his fingernails to start growing potatoes.
"The Thais love eating street food" is something else you hear foreigners say. But how many have truly asked for a Thai person's opinion of it?
I decided to make some enquiries - starting with my wife.
Food for the working man
"Street food means that people can at least get some sort of meal for a dollar" she said. "If you travel around Europe for example, it's just not possible to eat at that sort of price. When you have Thais earning salaries of 10,000 baht a month, it's all they can afford. That's the way it is"
"We have a company canteen at work where the prices are even lower than what you pay on the street - about 10-15 baht a dish. But of course the quality of the food is lower as well. Our security guards (good examples of low wage earners) eat in the canteen twice a day - but I'm sure they would love to eat better given the chance"
What about the Thais who can afford to eat better?
I asked around at the gym where most of the Thai trainers earn between 25,000 and 35,000 baht a month. It's a decent salary for a young, single Thai (and most of them are single I might add)
"I eat street food on every working day for two reasons" said Ben, a 23-year old trainer from Suphanburi. "Firstly, I don't have cooking facilities at my apartment and secondly, when I finish work at 10.30pm, street food is the only thing available. Well, it's either that or a microwave meal from 7-11, and I think street food probably comes out on top"
I asked Ben if he ate street food on his day off.
"Never" he said. "A day off gives me the opportunity to eat at a Japanese restaurant or some other place, usually in a shopping mall. I think many Thais are like me in that respect"
And yes, it seemed to be an opinion shared by the other trainers I got into conversation with.
I worked for many years with Mike, a teacher from England. He lived on one of those Sukhumwit sois lined with street food stalls from one end to the other. Mike, it's fair to say, lived on nothing but street food. He ate it at least twice a day.
And I've never known anyone have more sick days off work and suffer from a greater number of stomach-related health problems.
The hygiene and cleanliness of street food often comes up for discussion. Touch wood, I've never had a single instance of ‘a dicky stomach' but I've heard stories from many foreigners who haven't been quite so lucky.
Back at the gym. I asked Australian Dan for his opinion. Dan is a man mountain. His neck is thicker than my waist. I'm the only person at the gym who's not scared of him but he's a teddy bear once you get to know him.
"Street food!" Dan exclaimed "Don't talk to me about f***ing street food. It's a snack, that's all that f***ing is!"
The veins in his neck bulged and I sense I may have touched a nerve. I fanned him with a towel and eventually he calmed down.
Between deep breaths, Dan told me that he'd recently installed a new kitchen in his condo. "I know cooking can be a pain because you haven't always got time - but fresh meat and vegetables are so cheap here. By cooking at home, you eat far healthier and don't really spend that much more"
I wasn't going to argue with that. Well, to be honest, you'd be nuts to.