If you spend a while in Thailand and speak some Thai, you might hear locals talk about Thong Fah or ‘Blue Flag‘ food restaurants. I’d heard about them for a while but it’s only recently I knew what they were and realized I’d been eating at a few of them without even knowing.
A Thong Fah food restaurant is a restaurant that participates in a cheap food scheme run by the Thai government. At a Thong Fah restaurant (sometimes written as Thong Fa too), food should not be more than 25 or 30 baht per dish, with around 8-12 typical dishes at that price on the menu. Thong Fah food is usually the same dishes in most Thong Fah restaurants, and consists of a plate of rice and one topping (a curry, pork, some chicken, meat, fish etc) for 25-30 baht (83 cents to $1) or a plate of rice and two toppings for 30-35 baht ($1 to $1.15).
The Thong Fah government scheme is meant to help low-income and lower-middle class families afford to eat nutritious meals at a fair price and, if the restaurant is officially in the scheme, the government helps them with certain incentives, including getting ingredients for their food at discounted rates.
Of course, Thong Fah has its detractors as, with the price of food in Thailand going up so high recently, some restaurants say it’s impossible to make any profit on the scheme and so are dropping out. But, others love it as they say, even if they have to keep prices low, the Thong Fah scheme brings in more customers so, in the long run, they end up better off.
The scheme, however, has been around since 1995 so my guess is more people support it than those who don’t.
Anyone can eat at a Thong Fah restaurant, even foreigners and tourists. In fact, you may not even know you’re eating at one, except for the fact that the food is tasty and incredibly cheap.