They say that in order to taste the culture of a nation, you have to eat their food. But this belief is somewhat doubtful in a country like the Philippines, especially if the type of food you will eat is eaten only in five-star hotels and pricey restaurants.
Along R. Papa Street of Sampaloc, Manila, near Far Eastern University gymnasium and University of the East gate, there is an uncovered busy food court.
Technically, it is not a food court, merely a lengthy space in the street where people converge during class and office breaks. Yes! This version of a food court is mostly patronized by students and employees who studies and works alongside the vicinity of the street. But with food carts nearly taking up all of the space on both sides, and a throng of people partaking of their restless feast, it has become ground zero for the hungry and faster than fast food.
This street is also called as “hepalane.” There is the “Chumbayan Siomai” stall
that serves cheap siomai. It offers a variety of siomai packages. There are menus that include four pieces of siomai, three pieces of siomai plus a cup of rice, as well as five pieces of siomai with two cups of rice in styro packs. For thirst, it serves as well cold soft-drinks, pineapple and orange flavored canned juices. Another siomai store is the “Siomai Blitz,” which is one of the rivals of Chumbayan since 2008. They say that the rivalry started when Blitz pirated the loyal customers of Chumbayan. Another rival is the “Rice in a Box” which is located few meters away from Chumbayan. You could have choices from a set of different dishes here, but still people line up for the tasty siomai with rice. Moreover, a number of vendors sell drinks in pushcarts. For one, the fresh coconut juice of an old man is always been a partner of every meal in the food lane. Besides its cheapness in price, the taste of the juice is really natural. Next to it is the black gulaman of a vendor near Jollibee. This gulaman has a different taste compared to others. For a reason that no sugar is mixed with it, it is purely “arnibal”
There’s also the Jumburger. As the name implies, this stall serves an array of sandwiches which the burger stands as its signature product. You can choose from a selection of burger fillings such as ham, egg, bacon, and coleslaw with oozing mayonnaise and ketchup inside. Also, it vends advertised hotdogs and cheesedogs sandwiches. For those who like to eat in a hurry, there is the “Mommy’s Tusok-Tusok.” Available here are “tokneneng” (quail eggs fried in orange batter), fried siomai, kikiams, one-day old chicks, fried tofu and hotdogs with sauces such as spicy vinegar, and sweet and sour. Green mangoes with “bagoong,” pancakes, banana cue, chicken skins, and nuts are also served fast and ready-to-eat on the street.
But the star of the food cart business there right now is the lone fried chickenintestine stall which is the infamous Kuya’s Isaw. Yeah! You heard it right. It is infamous because it is a nameless street food stall. Actually, the students are the one who give this its name, although there is still no a printed name posted on a concrete board. It serves “isaw” (intestines) fresh from the hot cooking oil. The line is frequently long here and during afternoon, you can see “kuya” practically scooping fried entrails from scorching oil to the man-made metal strainer. It sells the cheapest chicken skins on sticks too.
Although the street food business in hepalane is gradually building its name in the economic industry, the Department of Health (DOH) still warned the public not to buy street foods because of the diseases it could bring to health. Secretary Enrique Ona said on a report before the opening of the second semester that the safety and sanitation of the street foods are uncertain as these might have been exposed to dust and other disease-causing organisms. He added that diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid fever are the usual diseases you could get fromstreet foods. Furthermore, according to Dr. Gary S. Sy M.D. of Life Extension Medical Center, typhoid fever is a life-threatening illness caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi. Persons with typhoid fever carry the bacteria in the bloodstream and intestinal tract. In addition, a small number of persons, called carriers, recover from typhoid fever but continue to carry the bacteria. Both ill persons and carriers shed Salmonella typhi in their stools. Some of signs and symptoms of typhoid fever are ulceration of the bowels, an eruption on the skin, an uncertain duration and a liability to frequent relapses and so on. And so with the notification of these signs, he suggests to immediately look for a doctor for urgent medications.
It’s very interesting slice of Pinoy pop-culture dining experience right there. How an old idea like the food cart did suddenly attracts consumers of different ages, different genders, and different personalities? How did consumers adapt this lately recognized food taste knowing the health risks of taking it? And more than being in busy streets, this business is fast building its name in the economic scene, as it creates competition among other food stores and fast-food chains in train stations, bus stations and even malls of our country. Yes, malls. Since when has street food become cosmopolitan? The entrepreneur in you might think, “Is it time for me to take a gamble on “isaw,” just like the rest of the food carters claiming their space in the urban landscape?” The rest of us might just be wondering, “What is the hush-hush in street food?”
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