“Taho!”, “Banana-cue, Lumpia, Turon!”, “Binatog!”, “Hopia, Mani, Popcorn!”, “Balot – Penoy!” these are the shouts of the just few of what we hear every day from morning ‘till night from the street vendors who walk around our barangay, and most of filipinos are fond of eating foods sold in the streets. I have the history of being hospitalized for almost a year, my parents did not tolerate me and my brothers to eat foods not cooked at our home. And so if we like to eat, for example, Banana-cue or Kamote-cue, or Fishballs, kikiam and chicken balls, I would insist my mom to cook those foods for us instead of buying outside. My preference of not eating street foods lasted up to now. .I remember my classmates in college, they invited me to eat in one carinderia nearby the University of the East Caloocan. I went with them, the same way and I couldn’t imagine how the food was being prepared, disgusting! Even the place…I wondered if there’s sanitation permit issued in this small resto.
As I have been exposed with this kind of food market, my curiosity about the taste and the variety of foods sold in the streets became higher and higher each time I see very satisfied students with their inexpensive meal. I wonder how they were able to satisfy themselves with those meals.
Exploring won’t do any harm
As I have been curious with all this. I gave myself a challenge; to eat at least once a day of the foods I see outside the school.
Taho (bean curd) is one of my favorite, and in generations the way the vendors sold and served this changed. There are already Taho vendors who doesn’t walk and carry around the two large aluminum buckets specifically designed for Taho, some have their bicycles and there are also Taho stations inside the mall.
Dirty Ice cream or sorbetes is very affordable and also creamy ice cream. It is not as dirty as we think it is because of its name, it was called dirty ice just to differentiate it from the branded ice cream made by big international ice cream makers. There are also different flavors sold by street vendors pushing colorful carts.
Mais (corn) and Manggang Hilaw (Green mango) with shrimp paste. I personally tried eating buttered corn and green mango with fish paste at flea market. And I find it interesting eating it in public. Most especially when the mango is really sour that will surely make your body shake.
Squidballs, Fishballs, One-day old chick, Kikiam, Kwek-Kwek and Tokneneng are some of my guilty pleasures when eating along the sidewalk or even in the park, even if I know that the vendors do not change their cooking oils regularly. Quail eggs or duck eggs2 covered in an orange batter, deep fried in hot oil and served with vinegar is for me the best “pantawid gutom” during 15 minutes break at work or a short break in school, making it very satisfying after eating the most affordable street food, Fishball, which is most often made from meat of cuttlefish or Pollock. One-day old chicks are usually rejects from poultry farm and they are eaten batter-fried. This is good when you eat this while drinking Beer as (pulutan) finger food with friends.
KFC (Kantong-Fried-Chicken) is one of my favorite alternatives of the (KFC) Kentucky Fried Chicken when I am broke and I want to eat a very delicious, juicy and crispy fried chicken. The taste is a bit different from the Crispy fried chicken of McDonalds, Jollibee and KFC, but the feeling and the satisfaction is the same. The prizes differs from different parts of the chicken, as you can also buy the wing part, leg part, neck part and even chicken skin.
Balat ng baboy (grilled pork skin), isaw ng baboy (pig intestines), and tenga ng baboy (grilled pig ears), leeg ng manok (grilled chicken neck), ulo ng manok (grilled chicken head), barbeque (grilled pork meat). These are best eaten while you’re having fun with friends and drinking alcoholic beverages. I had once attended a barbeque party and it was so good that you can eat as many barbeques as you can. Eating grilled chicken head is a great challenge for me as I give up so easily while eating this because I can’t eat it properly. All this grilled food is best eaten with spicy vinegar.
Mani (peanuts) either boiled or fried, with skin or none. This can give you the energy while reviewing for an examination as these improve brain function by increasing the conductivity of synapses within the brain, meaning more nerve signals can travel faster.
Banana cue (deep fried banana covered with caramelized brown sugar), camote cue (deep fried sweet potato covered with caramelized brown sugar), and Turon (banana in lumpia wrapper) is my all time favorite merienda and it is more satisfying when it has strips of jackfruit.
As a result of my own challenge, it has already been a habit for me to go to the streets of University-belt and buy some of the street foods I can find.
The risk of my curiosity
Street foods are the alternative food when we are in a short budget. The taste of the food can be compared to the food prepared at famous fast food and restaurants. It is cheaper that is why tourists, local and foreign, enjoy this kind of food setting. Eating along the streets can be exciting and relaxing, but there are also dangers that can cause health problems.
Having been curious and tried eating street foods, I sometimes endure the stomach pain and having diarrhea during classes. And with this I would like to thank God that I am free from other danger that I might be in. There are cases reported for the past few years regarding students food poisoned, having gastroenteritis and vomiting, cholera, amoebiasis and hepatitis due to eating street foods.
Buying and eating foods on the streets is just as important as buying medicine. We have to think of how expensive it is to be sick because of eating something that we are not sure if it’s clean and safe. Street foods in manila are largely an unregulated affair and the level of quality and hygiene can vary considerably. In other words, let us avoid eating anything that is not cooked in front of us or may have been left sitting out – especially in the sun.
On the other hand if the person cooking and serving the street food looks clean and healthy and there is a line of locals’ in-front of the stall, chances are that street food is safe to eat.
Going back from where I started
There are food bazaars where I can assure you are clean and safe. I have been eating to ‘Dampa sa Riverbanks’ since my colleagues invited me once to have our group dinner outside. The place is cool and nice. It is clean and they have lots of varieties where you can select; from chicken, to pork, to beef and to sea foods; and from grilled, to fry and with soup. It’s like you’re eating your mothers’ favorite recipe because of the satisfying, savory and mouthwatering dishes. There are also two food bazaars where you can eat with satisfaction with very affordable prizes; Bancheto in Megatent which is open from Friday 9pm till 7am Saturday, and Mercato in Bonifacio Global City which is open on Friday and Saturday from 10:00pm to 3:00am. Also, Mercato Centrale is open in the morning from 7am to 2pm during Saturday and Sunday.
Being risky and having these threats to my health made me decide to go back from the basic. From cooking those foods I see on the streets, at home, to having fun eating them with friends at home. The risk of having a disease is lower when having it cooked at home. So if you want to get dirty, take the risk of eating street foods but do not put the blame to the vendor as you have already been warned by the government and by the people surrounding you.