August 30, 2023
by Kimberly Deaño
In today’s world of cooking, choices abound when it comes to food. Whether you are grabbing a quick meal on the go or sitting down for a hearty lunch, the options seem limitless. Two popular choices often come to mind: canteen food and street foods. Both offer their own unique appeal, but they also come with considerations related to health safety, and personal food preferences.
Canteens or cafeterias are often associated with workplace or school environments. They provide a controlled setting where food is prepared and served following strict health and safety guidelines. Let us take a closer look at the advantages and potential drawbacks:
- Canteens typically offer a consistent menu with a variety of options, making it easy for patrons to find something they enjoy.
- Food safety standards are rigorously enforced in canteen kitchens, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
- Many canteens provide nutritional information for their offerings, helping customers make informed choices.
- Indoor seating and climate control can make dining in a canteen a comfortable experience.
- Some canteens may have a limited menu selection, leading to monotony for regular patrons.
- Canteen food prices may be higher compared to street foods.
- Canteen food tends to be predictable, with fewer opportunities to explore exotic or unique flavors.
In an interview with Ma’am Karina Ingrid Therese Kahulugan, one of the canteen managers at the Asian International School of Aeronautics and Technology says:
“In the canteen, we strive for a balance of nutritional content. Cleanliness and hygiene standards in the canteen are standardized because they strictly follow safety and sanitation procedures implemented by the government through the City Health Office.”
She added, “Ingredients are just additives to give balance to the main ingredient (pork, chicken, beef, or other meats) or enhancement as flavorings.” She also noted that:
“Big or small, all food, including vegetables, shrink by 20-30% for meat and 10% for vegetables during the cooking process.” which affects the portions for each serving of viands. Additionally, about the pricing, “Canteen Managers are also taking into consideration the prices of the raw/uncooked ingredients and other overhead costs (gas, fare, rental fees, employee salary and benefits, light and water bill) involved.
Food costing is very important. Prices may differ depending on the overhead costs, method of cooking, and ingredients used.” Furthermore, she added, “Canteen food offers plenty of choices and includes vegetables and non-pork dishes to promote healthy eating. Street food offers mostly fried or preserved foods. It is highly discouraged to maintain eating the food offered by the latter due to reduced food safety and health concerns.”
On the other hand, just outside AISAT, street foods are offered.
Street foods are the hallmark of food exploration, often offering a taste of local culture and tradition. They are prepared and served by independent vendors in public places, bringing a sense of authenticity to the dining experience. Let us explore the pros and cons:
- Street foods offer a wide range of flavors and dishes, from traditional local cuisine to international delicacies.
- Street foods are generally more budget-friendly than canteen or restaurant meals.
- Trying street food is an adventure in itself, as it allows you to step out of your culinary comfort zone.
- Sampling street foods can provide a glimpse into the local culture and culinary traditions of a place.
- The cleanliness of street food stalls can vary, so it’s important to choose vendors wisely.
- There may be a higher risk of foodborne illnesses when consuming street foods prepared in less controlled environments.
- Street foods often lack clear nutritional information, making it challenging to make health-conscious choices.
- Street foods are typically enjoyed outdoors, which may not always be ideal in inclement weather.
Just beside AISAT, an array of street food vendors selling various foods like isaw, proben, kwek-kwek, siomai, and buko juice which captured the taste buds and hearts of the AISAT students and some of its employees, as well as nearby workers and residents. The budget-friendliness of street foods is a game changer especially to the students’ strained wallets as they are known as “lifesavers”. The quick, delicious, and fuss-free for the grumbling stomachs of the citizens, and the buko juice which is a go-to choice for those seeking refreshments and health benefits in one delightful package.
When it comes to hygiene, many students and citizens always say that it is concerning and you can never be too cautious. Many advise to “Go to popular stalls with a steady stream of customers. It’s usually a sign of freshness and quality”. Some have also expressed, “Observe the vendor’s hygiene practices. A clean cooking area and well-maintained utensils are a telltale of a reliable vendor.” “If something doesn’t look or smell right, it’s best to skip it”, advises another student. “Find those trusted vendors you can rely on.”
In the bustling streets of the Philippines, street foods are not just snacks – they are a way of life. A testament to culture, affordability, and convenience, they continue to unite diverse communities with flavors that tantalize and traditions that endure.
Ultimately, the choice between canteen and street foods depends on personal preferences, circumstances, and priorities. For those seeking convenience, consistency, and a controlled environment, canteen food may be the preferred option. On the other hand, if you are an adventurous eater looking for unique flavors and cultural experiences, street foods can be a delightful choice.
In both cases, it is crucial to prioritize hygiene and safety when dining out. Whether you opt for a canteen meal or street food, exercising caution and making informed choices will help ensure a satisfying and risk-free dining experience. The “foodie” world is vast and diverse, offering something for every palate and preference; the key is to savor it responsibly.