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Best street food city title food for thought

Saigon has been named one of the 10 global cities of street foods. But both local authorities and street hawkers should expend more effort to make safe street foods available to tourists from afar.

Street food hawkers’ hospitality and, particularly, honesty are essential
for pleasing tourists, be they first-timers or those making a return visit.

Food & Wine, a prestigious U.S. magazine on lifestyle with a focus on culinary delights, has picked Saigon as one of the world’s top-10 cities offering the most fascinating street foods [for your reference others are Istanbul (Turkey), Mexico City (Mexico), Marrakech (Morocco), Hong Kong (China), Los Angeles (the U.S.), Austin (the U.S.), Berlin (Germany), and Bangkok (Thailand)]. The accreditation is meaningful in that it not only instills in cosmopolitan tourists the urge to visit HCMC but also excites street hawkers in this city where street foods are ubiquitous and awesome.

For ages, many foreign tourists have been delighted to experience Saigonese street foods. Apart from the distinctive tastes, they also gain the palpable sense of local atmosphere and direct contact with the local lifestyle in the most natural way.

However, as tourists are indulging themselves in tasting Saigonese street foods, more than anyone else, Saigonese residents have to mull over the two sides of a coin: food hygiene, an issue plagued with many problems.
One of the reasons for this issue is the fact that street foods in Saigon are mostly family business which doesn’t bother much about food hygiene control exercised by local authorities. However, it would be unfair if the street food business is killed off in the name of health safety. Street foods are a “love child” of the spontaneity deep-rooted in the lifestyle of Saigonese and Vietnamese.

Meanwhile, regular food hygiene inspections conducted by related authorities have suggested worrying results. Street food hawkers and sidewalk food stall owners have adopted a popular mentality which can be used to explain why it is so.

Pragmatism, if you will! They argue that the majority of their customers are one-offs. Consequently, they can overcharge them at will and care nothing about their health. As many street eateries have no name or registration, it would be unrealistic to require their responsibility should a customer suffer a mishap relevant to their products.
On the one hand, street foods are indisputably part of the local culture of the Saigonese. On the other, residents in Saigon are every discreet about introducing their street food favorites to tourists worldwide on account of the dark side of the issue. More often than not, foreign travelers to this city experience Saigonese street foods on their own being backpackers or during free time in their tours. Few local tour operators have so far been bold enough to embrace street foods in their official programs. Risks abound, everyone knows!

On one side of the coin, Saigonese street foods are culturally and gastronomically attractive. On the other, however, they are unorganized and bewildering. While adequate and reasonable interference from urban authorities is nowhere to be seen at the moment, expectations of street food sellers’ business ethics are just Utopian dreams.
Now that Saigon has been given the street food commendation, Saigonese authorities should reconsider their managerial role to seek better future for this business. The authorities’ actions should promote street foods as a tourist product capable of luring international arrivals and generating profits for local dwellers.

As to street food hawkers and stall owners, they should highly esteem the full value of every bowl of food or seat they offer. The desirable quality of each of them is capable of generating better income and earning the prestige attached to Saigon as a premier tourist destination.


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