The endangered street food of Bangkok’s legendary Saphan Luang

Saphan Luang is one of the most famous street food district in Bangkok. It was once filled with myriad street food stalls recognized citywide, namely Jae Kiang, Jae Sri and Tang Sui Heng. Today, it is under threat from urban development.

Saphan Luang means yellow bridge in English. Located a few minutes away from dtac House (Chamchuri Square), it is a fantastic place for simple, yet satisfying and wholesome meals. To this day, it still offers a wide selection of delicacies, thanks to 30 food carts and stalls.

Still, Bangkok is being urbanized. Skyscrapers are mushrooming, leading to gentrification. Saphan Luang is inevitably affected. Some vendors were required to move out and replaced by high-end condominiums. The good old days of this popular food hub will never be the same.

We spoke to some of the legends in remembrance of the authentic taste of a true Bangkokian street food district.

Charoen Sripimolwan
Yok Saeng beef noodle
In business for: 60 years

“We’ve sold beef noodles for generations. My granddad first open this food stall in this small alley in 1973 and those customers continued coming here to taste our authentic beef noodles. On every Sunday, they will come with their children and grandchildren.

“In the early 70s, in front of this shop house was a canal, railway and tramway. If you want to come here, you need to cross a canal by a narrow yellow bridge, and that’s why people called this area as ‘Yellow Bridge’.  In the evening, gangsters would come sit on the bridge like in the 1970s movie, Dang Bireley’s Story.

“Although time flied, our taste and furniture remained unchanged. When you walk in, you can feel like you are in 70s. We cook braised beef and beef balls by ourselves from scratch. Today, it has been more than 60 years, and we need someone to take over the business. My grandchildren need to decide whether they wish to inherit this legend or not.”

Jaruwan Chutiwaraporn
Jae Jia Pink Noodle foods
In business for: 52 years

“I have been around this area since I was born. I turned 70 years old already. Yen Ta Fo is a distinctively pink noodle made by pickled bean curd. In early years, there were only a few Yen Ta Fo stalls and the stall was packed with crowds throughout the day. They liked our clear soup, shrimp ball and deep fried wonton.

“I made everything myself to ensure food safety and hygiene. I don’t let staff do it. Even though it was so exhausting doing this myself, it paid off.

“I was astounded to hear that some of them (food stalls) will be moved out. They have been here for ages. Here is like our home. The location is superb with convenient transportation, and it’s packed with street food.”

Muihieng Saetiew
Bookseller
In business for: 30 years

“Business was good in the past, but now it becomes worse. Digital technology shaped a new reading habit, which forced me to sell other stuff like lottery along with magazines and newspapers. My daughter asked me to sit at home, but business is my life. I would be depressed if I stop running business.

“As the owner of a book stall, I can take a nap when I feel sleepy. I’m not afraid of shoplifter as we know the neighbors pretty well. We help each other.”

Suda Charoenmongkolsuk
Bakery
In business for: 40 years

“We’ve run this bakery house for more than 40 years. Previously, my dad opened this shop at Merry Kings Wang Burapa, the most popular department store in the 70s. We moved out and have been here at Saphan Luang for more than 20 years. Most customer have high loyalty, buying our product for decades since they were young. They said our bakery is yummy with reasonable price. It costs only 100 baht for a large bag. No other shops offer prices like these at the moment.”

“The owners of food stalls here are very helpful. Previously, there was a pretty vibrant thanks to a variety of food stalls. But now it’s become sluggish as a significant number of food stalls are declining.”

Today, if you visit Saphan Luang and miss some of authentic taste, like Tung Sui Heng duck noodles, Jae Kiang goose noodles and Jae Sri salad, you can go support them at Stadium One project, next to the National Stadium.