Perhaps it’s an Asian thing, this love affair with street food, which Pinoys have embraced and peddled for as long as there have been movable food stalls and carts. Along with many other Asians and adventurous foreigner gourmands, the Filipinos’ consumption of this odd mix of entrails, duck embryos, odd animal parts, vegetables, seafood, and nearly everything else that can be stabbed with a wooden stick and barbecued to perfection has become almost art-like in its bizarre beauty.
There are, however, risks in every bite you take out of that isaw or adidas or balut, especially in unfamiliar territories. That is why, food safety standards are top of mind when we are out on a street food soiree with friends or visiting relatives. But then again, what harm can a small dose of germs here and there do, as Pinoy street food veterans would say. It’s good to keep the stomach and digestive system on their toes by teasing them with these dirty little buggers, others might even argue. While it’s true that some people don’t necessarily fall to the ground writhing and foaming in the mouth after ingesting street food, others are quite sensitive to the novelty of taste and composition of it.
So, in order to keep the street food fun and adventure going without necessarily getting exposed to harmful (sometimes even lethal) bacteria, here are three smart ways to enjoy Pinoy street food:
1. Observe the food stall/cart. Look at the actual place of business and the people manning them, what do you see? While it’s understandable that their tools (pots, pans, laddle, barbecue grill, etc) and the facial expressions of the peddlers are a little worse for wear (it’s a tough life), food shouldn’t be placed in dirty containers or handled by dirty staff. After all, these delicacies go into your mouth to be digested later on by your system.
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2. Take stock of the environment. The more decent neighbourhood actually have specified areas where food carts can be parked and street food vending can be done safely and health risk-free. Eating street food in a polluted and dirty area also means the food being served has a greater risk of being contaminated. Note that some of the raw/pre-cooked meat are on display and not necessarily in tupperware or food containers, which render them exposed to polluted air and water. Flies, rats, and other vermin may have also landed on some meat products that you’re not even aware of.
3. Absolutely NO double-dipping. Most, if not all barbecue-type street food carts have a selection of special sauces and dips for your chosen meat, from spicy vinegar to some kind of sweetish sauce. And while the ingredients of which may be familiar to you, you’re not particularly sure about the manner in which they were prepared and how clean they have kept all the containers. Generally, you dip your barbecue stick once and then partake of the food. “Double dipping” is when after you take a bite or two, you dip your food back into the sauce. Now this practice is pretty dangerous in that it will allow the spread of bacteria from customer to customer. The sauce itself can easily get contaminated by whatever the last dude who dipped has in his saliva and well, you pretty much get the picture, right? There are some vendors who actually prevent their customers from doing so and you’d be better off eating there. Otherwise, just take our advice and avoid double-dipping.
That’s it! We’re not out to scare you or turn you off street food bingeing completely, no. Just that we practice a little bit of restraint and vigilance for health’s sake. Now who’s game for some Mang Larry’s isaw?!
Featured image by Ramon F Velasquez on https://commons.wikimedia.org/
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