PHUKET CITY: A contest to find the best cooks of local Phuket dishes will be one of the many highlights of the annual Red Cross Festival that begins at Saphan Hin today.

Somsak Songnui, chief of the Phuket Provincial Development Office, said his office has organized the competition as part of this year’s Local Food Festival, which runs concurrently with the Red Cross Fair and the Colorful Phuket Countdown 2010.

Food preparation competitions will run through January 9, with top prizes of 3,000 baht going to the winners for such tasty dishes as nam prik kung siap, nam chup yum chili paste and khao yam khluk. Second and third place winners in these categories will win 2,000 baht and 1,000 baht, respectively.

There will also be a competition for a kanom cheen (Chinese pasta noodles) presentation, with prizes of 2,000 baht, 1,500 baht and 1,000 baht for the top three entries.

In total, 25,000 baht in prize money will be up for grabs.

The purpose of the food festival is to celebrate the new year while promoting tourism and Phuket’s unique culinary heritage.

Many private and government organizations will have booths set up at the fair and there will be staged performances nightly.

Acts scheduled for tonight include a Thai classical dance performance by students of the acclaimed Bundit Pattana Silpa Institute of Silpakorn University and a much-anticipated ‘mini-concert’ by sexy pop quartet Girly Berry.

Anyone interested in entering the food competitions should contact the Phuket Provincial Development Office at 076-21158.

— Hasan Che-aware