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2007.02.08

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Chubbypanda

Hear hear!

Cupcake

Maybe in some places where the standards of hygiene are poor and knowledge about food prep standards is non-existent (could be due to economic or cultural circumstances), it might well be better to ban street food. Having said that though, the worst case of food poisoning I've ever suffered was from my last trip to Singapore.

Cupcake

plumpernickel

Indian street food is great, but the hygiene levels are very, very suspect. The thing is that in India one can get equally delicious, safe and amazingly cheap street food off the streets easily in tiny eateries. It is nice to visit India, enjoy the street food and draw parallels with the uber-sanitised Singapore food courts, but when one has to live here (in India), deal with the annoyance of the filth caused by said street vendors, it doesn't seem half as bad an idea.

Jem

Hmm...an age old question. How to get the best of both worlds without compromising each? We like hawker foods and we would also like it to be hygienic.

Graham

Clearly I'm with you on this... And we're not alone

http://technorati.com/search/news.bbc.co.uk%2F2%2Fhi%2Fsouth_asia%2F6340391.stm

My fear with all this is the almost inevitable slow disappearance of some dishes. As soon as the food starts going behind doors and the kids stop getting interested in cooking there are no punters coming to the house to keep that particular rendition of that particular dish alive and it disappears, even if it was written down somewhere, which is unlikely.

There is a kind of market forces argument to all this of course - the best will always be the best and will survive and flourish etc. But, frankly, that's bollocks.

I'd hate to visit Vietnam in my dotage to find just one hawker centre Bun rieu seller who is IT. You need variety of taste of recipe, style otherwise you just end up with the same old, same old and that way's blandsville Singapore. I'm all for hygiene, but not at any cost.

Bee@Rasa Malaysia

Robyn, I had been to Mumbai once but I didn't see any street food there...perhaps I didn't know where to look?!

By the way, it looks like our schedules won't match up, never mind, there is always next time. ;)

Bee@Rasa Malaysia

By the way your link is broken...you have an extra http in front of the link.

Robyn

Bee thanks re the link, and sorry we can't meet up. Next time, next time?

Cupcake and Jem - caring and conscientious vendors will maintain hygiene standards the best of their ability whether or not there are rules/regulations in place to assure such. By the same token, no rule/regulation can force a sloppy vendor to pay attention to cleanliness. Removing all vendors from the street because some are careless/sloppy doesn't seem fair. I have gotten sick in hotel restaurants - should we close all? I don't think 'culture' or economics has anything to do with it ... it's down to the individual, really. My goodness, we've eaten in some pretty down-and-out villages from the most spic-and-span stalls.

plumpernickel (nice name!) - I guess this is the point. Street food, if it exists, is part of a locale's food culture. What is annoyance to you (the smells, having to walk around stalls and dodge queues, etc) is part of the landscape for me. I accept it (I lived in Bangkok and really never minded having to walk around street stalls) and I would miss it if it didn't exist anymore. Street food and the activity around it is a little slice of life -- and, in the places that it exists, life gets just a bit more 'flat' ie homogeneous when it disappears. I think Singapore is the perfect example.

Graham - excellent point abt the disappearance of street food ultimately heralding the disappearance of some dishes. Why do people not see this? You can already see it happening in some places. I guess I can say it till I'm blue in the face -- street food is not just something you put in your mouth ... it's a whole way of life, it's social and its cultural and it should be preserved as would any other thing of cultural significance. Of course, we're talking Asia here, where historical buildings get pulled down at the drop of a hat, so I'm probably just blowing in the wind anyway...

porkbun

And so you are, Robyn. If you and the rest of the people who have posted here want to seek the exotic, mystic, untouched, locked-in-time East, by all means please go elsewhere. Singapore, I'm afraid, was founded upon and built for commercial efficiency. We're very small geographically and population-wise, and have no natural resources like our neighbours. The way the country has been run for the past 40-odd years has brought us to where we are now, and hopefully will continue steering us in the right direction. Is this not the reason why most businesses from all your countries choose to have their Asia-Pac operations or headquarters based in Singapore? Because we're SAFE and EFFICIENT. Stringent public health measures have given us one of the highest standards of living, I daresay, in the world. So please don't pity the people of Singapore for missing out on a "street-food culture" or for a sepia-tinted, abandoned culinary past. Our culinary traditions are intact, thank you very much, and we don't need seekers of the exotic East telling us how we should "protect" them! I don't know how many times you've actually been to Singapore, but I get the feeling you've not really attempted to look past the obvious. Have you visited our various wet markets? Have you sought out the little corner coffeeshops and old hawker centres dotted all over the island for their specialities? Have you been to the various ethnic community areas and explored the eating establishments and food shops there? Have you been here when we celebrate the various festivals of each ethnic group? Or have you not gone beyond the food courts and hotel restaurants (and some damn fine hotel restaurants as well)? If that's the case, you deserve all the impressions you have formed. However, if it's the case that you have already done so and not found anything to your liking, thank you for your custom and we'll probably not see you again. Sorry that we're bland and boring, and not as exotic and fasicnating as our SE Asian neighbours.

Robyn

Porkbun - either you got up on the wrong side of the bed the morning you wrote your rant, or you carry an exceptionally large chip on your shoulder. Or both, perhaps.

Reread my post. It was not an attack on Singapore, or on Singaporeans, or on Singapore food in general. I simply stated that to me, street food is an important part of Asian food culture, and that I would prefer not to live anywhere in Asia that lacks it. It's simply my opinion, and I'm entitled to it.

Have I looked beyond Singapore's food courts and hotel restaurants? Well, I suspect you haven't read many of our back posts, or you would know that when we travel we don't spend a lot of time in malls, food courts, or hotel restos. Singapore has much of culinary interest to offer but in my estimation can't match its neighbors when it comes to on-the-street tasties. You undoubtedly agree, and you're proud of it. Great, fantastic -- so what are you so off about?

As to your accusation that I seek the 'exotic, mystic, untouched, locked-in-time' East, I'd again ask you to give a good measure of time to our back posts before shooting your mouth off. Because what we document is neither exotic, nor mystic, nor untouched, nor - especially - locked-in-time. Perhaps you're not aware of it (how far from the hotel restaurant do YOU venture, when you travel in Asia? or do you prefer not to set foot in neighboring countries that don't meet your standards of hygeine and efficiency?) -- but street food is what quite a bit of Asia eats. Not yesterday, not in olden times, but right now, every day.

We don't conjure the images on this blog, nor do I manufacture the stories I write about street vendors and their product. This is reality in most of Asia. Praise or scorn it, as you like - it is what it is.

Honestly porkbun, what are you so upset about anyway? Anthony Bourdain and the late, great RW Apple have both proclaimed Singapore to have the best food (and best street food) in all of Asia. What do you care about the musings of an obscure blogger with a miniscule readership?

diego

quick question:

is there a specific name in se asia for such "restaurants"? (like the corner bodegas in nyc).

thanks!

Robyn

Diego - are you referring to individual hawker stalls? Here in Malaysia they're called - 'hawker stalls'. 'Kaki lima' is a term used in Indonesia (kaki=feet, lima=five, and this refers to the vendors two feet and the 3 'feet' of the cart he pushes) and it has been in Malaysia, too. Not sure what other SE Asian countries term their versions.
It's worth noting that among the places that still have true street food, Malaysia is (I'm pretty sure about this) a bit unique in having 'coffee shops' (kopitiam, if you want the Malaysian term) where a bunch of different vendors gather to hawk their foods. The shop is usually owned by a guy/family whatever that provides beverages, and the hawkers (with true individual stalls inside the shops) pay rent.
Hope that helped a wee bit.

kar

hygiene police?
who ?
where countery?
for what ?

kar

send me paper of hyginie or health police.

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