Sila Sutharat, a 60-year-old roadside vendor in Phetchaburi, Thailand, utilizes the power of the sun to offer his customers something different.
He designed and built a large wall of nearly 1,000 moveable mirrors to cook his chicken sunny-side up quite literally. Using his device, he focuses the sun’s rays onto a row of marinated chickens and let them sizzle away under the intense heat.
“They said that I’d gone mad, that cooking chicken like this was impossible,” he said. “But after a long time passed by, they’d say: ‘Actually, you could do it.’”
The solar reflector generates intense heat easily enough to match an oven, with a sunshine-baked chicken taking just 12 minutes to cook through.
Sila has been doing it for much of the last 20 years in relative obscurity. But after videos of his solar-cooker went viral online, people from across Thailand have flocked to his stall in Phetchaburi, a province two hours south of Bangkok.
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.
With 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 said. “I thought if I used solar energy, I could save a lot. And it also decreases pollution.”
Sila and his wife Pansri 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.”