As soon as class is over at the University of Saint La Salle, troops of hungry college students swarm outside to La Salle Avenue where parked beside the bridge is a row of food carts hawking Philippine style street food. The most popular carts have students eagerly lining up for a quick, inexpensive afternoon snack.
The small strip of road near the La Salle avenue bridge is highly contested among the food cart vendors. Some vendors park their carts right after lunchtime to get ahead of their competition. Food at the street carts is surprisingly varied and irregular. You might be able to get hot piaya today from a cart, then the next day discover the cart’s space taken over by an enterprising fishball vendor.
Food prices are cheap with items costing five to ten pesos. Most of the food being sold appeals to the tastes of students: cheap, fried, greasy and portable – easy to take home or to munch on the way to classes.
Tasty food does not always equal to safe food. There have been numerous studies all over the world showing that street food is very likely to be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as the deadly E.Coli bacteria which is found in fecal material. These bacteria can make you seriously ill. One can only hope that these street vendors wash their hands and use clean water to prepare their food. Oblivious to the perils of deadly bacteria, students still stop to snack at these carts, unaware of the danger it poses to their health.
If you’re willing to risk your health (and we suggest that you don’t) there’s some pretty interesting snacks at these carts. We especially liked the cheese stick cart which sold crispy dynamite sticks. We refused the vendor’s offer to top our sticks with mayo (unrefrigerated, in a big tub) and settle for some vinegar instead.
We also tried a fried, battered isaw – a choice I deeply regret as my stomach is still feeling a bit funny 8 hours after trying the isaw stick.
Dessert can be found further down the street at CL Montelibano where a banana queue stand sells turon and fried banana-que.
There are legit food trucks also parked by the side of the road. By legit we mean they have mayor’s business permits and all that. Two trucks that we saw sold fresh-baked bread and pastries. Apparently, mixing of the dough is done in their center of operations and set aside to allow the dough to rise. The risen dough is then brought in covered containers and brought to be baked in a portable oven by the side of the road.
The most popular cart is the breadbite cart selling hot spanish rolls. Rain or shine, there is always a queue for the piping hot bread. The bread is so popular that the vendors have resorted to giving numbers out to the waiting students. We had a roll. It was too sweet, airy and floury for our taste but the students seemed to love it. For us, we’d rather go to a legit bakery than have our bread cooked by the side of the road exposed to all the exhaust fumes, dust and contaminants.
We hope that people become aware of the health risks that they are taking when they eat street food. Convenience and low price cannot compensate the huge medical bills that can potentially arise from eating contaminated food.