BANGKOK — New street food carts unveiled Wednesday by a university come with a promise to make the food culture cleaner and more friendly to the environment.
Seven prototype carts handed to seven vendors at an event today feature built-in sink, stainless steel kitchenware, a ventilation system, lights, and a tank to store wastewater instead of disposing them into public sewage. Each cart can be either plugged into any electric socket, or run on battery power.
Rector of King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, who designed the devices, said he wants to revolutionize Thailand’s street food. The industry is iconic for its cheap and diverse dishes, but also blamed for polluting the city sewers.
“Street food is the lifeblood of urbanites and of Thailand,” Prof Suchatvee Suwansawat said on Wednesday. “We won’t surrender to Singapore. That’s why we set up a street food academy. We must be the best in the world.”
The vendors to operate the first batch of these carts were selected from 2,000 people who applied for the pilot project. The program is supported by the health ministry and cashless payment operators.
Each of the fancy carts costs 55,000 baht. Recipients were chosen for their suitable philosophy that matched the aims of making street food cleaner, and more environmentally friendly.
Meena Polsorn, 24, and her parents are among the seven street food vendors chosen by the institute. She said her parents are grilled meat vendors, and they committed to serving hygienic street food
Meena, who dropped out of university to help her family sell the food, said she’s delighted to try out the cart on Rama IV Road.
The device comes with no strings attached, and there’s even a cashless purchase system, in which customers can pay for their food through Rabbit cards. The university researchers say paying without cash can reduce risks of coronavirus infections.
Naphatrapi Luangsakul, head of the university’s street food academy, said dishes served by Thai street food carts are at risk of exposure to bacteria, since many vendors do not wash their hands when cooking.
Naphatrapi said the problem is addressed by the sink installed in the newly designed food carts. The tap operates through the foot paddle in order to reduce hand contact.
Another chosen street food vendor, Supatkorn Chormprasert, has been selling coffee for two years after he left a company job.
Supatkorn said he used to rent a corner at a shop house near Kasetsart University for 2,000 baht a month.With the mobile cart and electric plugs, he plans to sell at a street corner and pay for electricity from a nearby source, saving a substantial amount of rent money.
The carts do have their drawback. A vendor said they are heavier than the usual food carts, and there’s not much space for cooking.
Nevertheless, deputy public health minister Sathit Pitutecha said during the launching ceremony that he hopes the street food scenes of Thailand can keep innovating to provide Thai and foreign customers with healthier food.
Sathit noted that environmentally sustainable and hygienic equipment is too expensive for many vendors. He urged the university to come up with more economical methods to sell food while staying green at the same time.
“The price is a barrier,” Sathit said.