Street Food Finds A Sanctuary In Bangkok

The newly opened Saphan 55 is a safe haven for sidewalk food vendors who have lost their livelihoods.

Despite the fact that Bangkok is renowned worldwide for its amazing street food culture, municipal authorities have set a long-term goal of systematically eliminating this tasty Thai tradition. The objective, they say, is to make the sidewalks more pedestrian-friendly. One of the streets first targeted was Thonglor (Sukhumvit Soi 55), Bangkok’s trendiest nightlife strip.

But now, many of Thonglor’s displaced vendors are back in action at Saphan 55, a newly launched open-plan dining venue at the far end of this busy thoroughfare, near the canal bridge (saphan is the Thai word for “bridge”). The street-level section, with cement floors and picnic-table seating, is populated by dozens of food stalls, including top street food vendors who used to sell in the area, as well as modern operations such as Easy Burger, a small but successful local chain. Best of all, the prices have remained affordable, averaging at around THB50 to THB60 (about Php85 to Php100) per meal.

On the second floor, the restaurant Baan Saphan also keeps food traditions alive, serving traditional Thai dishes that you don’t often see in restaurants anymore. It’s a bit pricier upstairs, but the food is well worth it. Recommended dishes include the glass noodle spicy salad with shrimp and pork, and the spicy minced duck fried spring rolls. Colorfully decorated, the laid-back restaurant offers indoor and open-air seating, plus a bar with craft beers and a stage for live music.

The barn-like building itself also has a backstory, as it was constructed of mainly reclaimed wood and other repurposed material. As for the man behind the operation, Chris Foo is known for his successful craft beer bars in Bangkok, but with this project — a real labor of love — he’s dedicated his efforts to truly giving something back to the local community.


More Foodie Fooder

Bangkok-based Mark Wiens is a wildly popular 33-year-old American-born blogger, author and YouTube star, and the founder of the websites and Documenting his love of food has proven so successful that he’s been able to make a good living doing it. His latest venture is Phed Mark Pad Kaprao, a street food-style restaurant in Phra Khanong. It specializes in pad kaprao, a stir-fried mix of holy basil, chili and meat, served with rice and a fried egg (optional). Mark believes it to be “one of the best of all Thai foods”. The restaurant’s name is a play on the Thai term phed mak, or “very spicy”.



This story first appeared in the December 2019 issue of Smile magazineCebu Pacific flies to Bangkok from Manila.

Written by

Bruce Scott

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