Should food be cooked and sold out in the open, where the people are? Just today two articles crossed my screen. One is from
Many foreigners living here, however, eschew street food entirely. Some do this out of caution and some due to painful past experiences. Many local people also avoid it, mentioning the lack of hygiene. For some years I worked in restaurant kitchens and am all too aware that street food can’t comply with most of our food prep safety standards; two major challenges are lack of refrigeration and lack of a ready source of water for washing. Still, I can’t bring myself to write off all street food entirely – it is too good and too cheap.
Keeping an eye on the popular stalls is one of the most basic ways of finding safe street food. You can find the good vendors, see what people are ordering, and observe how they are eating it. By watching the food being prepared you can also see if the cook cares about what they are doing or not. A good cook has been recognizable in any country I have been in so far - they should move with a kind of attentive confidence, even when working very quickly.
A cook’s attention to hygiene, or lack thereof, is also pretty easy to gauge. So I avoid the stalls where the vendor has his hands jammed into his pockets or is rubbing his hand across his face in thirty degree weather. The vendor who has stacked up several dozen cooked items in the heat of the afternoon also gets a pass. I look for the stall with clean, organized equipment and oil that looks and smells fresh. I look at the ingredients carefully and sniff them if I can, and hold my hand above the food items to feel if they are still hot. Compared to sitting down in a nice clean inspected restaurant this is unquestionably still a risk, but so far I have avoided being sick and some of my favourite foods here have been bought and eaten on the street.
Starting this weekend, Frugal Cuisine will have posts on