Despite the palm oil price crisis, Nuanla-or Sripila, 38, a fried banana street vendor on Convent Road, opposite Saint Joseph Convent, keeps a positive outlook on life and her regular customers on a carb-loaded sugar high with her crispy snacks.

Where are you from originally?
I’m from Roi-ed but I’ve lived in Bangkok for ten years already and consider myself a Bangkokian. I now live with four relatives in a rented house on Soi Phiphat. I work and provide for my father and mother who still live in Roi-ed.

Have you always sold kluay khak (fried bananas)?
No. I sold socks first but the business wasn’t going as well as I would have liked, and I thought food might be more lucrative. So I switched to bananas three years ago. I use one of my friend’s recipes and bought the cart secondhand. I chose selling snacks simply because they’re easy to sell. Almost everybody eats kluay khak. It’s been going quite well actually.

What’s your daily routine?
Every day I wake up at 5am to prepare the ingredients: flour, bananas, sweet potatoes, and taro. I come here at 7am and start cooking. But when school is in session, I have to come here after 8am because there’s traffic from students coming to school, so the police asks us to come later. Almost every day, I’m sold out by around 3-4pm. But if there are not many people on the street, I won’t fry all of my bananas because the remainder can be kept for another day. Every couple of days, I go by tuk-tuk to buy my ingredients at Khlong Toei Market.

How has the palm oil price crisis affected you?
I have had to raise my prices. The price hike has resulted in fewer customers, too. In fact, oil price isn’t the only factor. Coconut, coconut cream, sugar and flour are more expensive as well. I used to sell seven pieces for 10 baht but now it’s four pieces for 10 baht. I know it’s almost 50% less but the ingredient prices have doubled.

Do you have any complaints about Bangkok?
Well, I don’t think there’s anything specific I want to change, but I’m worried that the permission for street stands might be revoked in the near future. We all have our names registered at the district office, yet the authority is pretty strict. The sanitation unit comes quite often to check on the cleanliness and to make sure we use proper containers for our food. The municipal officials come a lot too, but after a recent receipt scandal, I haven’t seen any. Sometimes we have to pay them a little something like a “cleaning fee,” but I don’t want to talk about it. It’s sensitive.

Have you ever dreamed of selling anything or doing something else?
No. I’m satisfied. I’m self-employed. I can work on my own and I enjoy my freedom. Interview by Kanyanun Sanglaw, Nuchanat Prathumsuwan


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