Sun-baked chicken: Thai vendor uses mirrors to cook poultry

Food vendor Sila Sutharat turning the grates on a cart loaded with chicken as he cooks the white meat with rays of sun reflected on an oversized mirror panel on his property in Petchaburi province, south of Bangkok. PHOTO: AFP

PETCHABURI, THAILAND (AFP/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Not many chefs don a welding mask before they enter the kitchen, but Sila Sutharat prefers to cook his chicken sunny side up.

Two hours south of Bangkok this 60-year-old roadside vendor has found an ingenious way to offer his customers something a little different.

Using a large wall of nearly 1,000 movable mirrors - a device he designed and built himself - he focuses the sun's rays onto a row of marinated chickens, sizzling away under the intense heat.

His unusual culinary methods raised a few eyebrows when he first hit upon the idea.

"They said that I'd gone mad, that cooking chicken like this was impossible," he said.

Next to his stall, the row of sun-drenched chickens behind him too bright to look at for any length of time.

"After a long time passed by, they'd say: 'Actually, you could do it'," he added.

That's because the the solar reflector generates intense heat, easily enough to match an oven, with a sunshine-baked chicken taking just twelve minutes to cook through.

Sila Sutharat shielding his face from the reflection of the sun reflected on an over-sized mirror panel he uses to cook different kinds of meat on his property in Petchaburi. PHOTO: AFP
The wall of nearly mirrors, which Sutharat designed himself, uses the power of the sun to cook his chicken and other meats. PHOTO: AFP

For much of the last 20 years Sila grilled in relative obscurity for a fairly local crowd.

But after videos of his solar-cooker went viral online, people from across Thailand have flocked to his stall in Phetchaburi province.

Coming up with the idea

Sila says the idea came to him in 1997 when he was struck by the heat reflecting off a passing bus.

"I thought, with this heat reflecting from the window from the sun, I could possibly change it into energy," he said.

Sila says that compared to a traditional charcoal grill - which he used before his solar epiphany - his meat is more tender and evenly-cooked.

And given Thailand's sweltering tropical climate, the sun is a free, clean and totally sustainable energy source.

"At the time, energy such as petrol and gas was becoming more expensive and suppliers were also running out of wood to sell," he recalled.

Sutharat's wife Mali Pansari removes chicken from the grill after they were cooked with rays of the sun. PHOTO: AFP

" I thought if I used solar energy, I could save a lot. And it also decreases pollution."

Sila and his wife Pansri now cook around 40 chickens - as well as several sides of pork - each day.

"We've been eating here for a long time," said regular patron Thanyarat Kaewpaleuk, who was tucking into lunch with her husband.

"It's delicious. His chicken is fatty, it's not burned and doesn't smell like a charcoal grill, which you can smell on the meat."

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