Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm not even worried about the MSG anymore

This is what my friend Sandra found in her lunch today:

(WARNING: This picture will gross you the eff out.)

No, that's not a raisin. It's a fat, juicy fly swimming in the sweet and sour sauce. (Sorry it's blurry, we only had a camera phone available.)

It was the grossest thing I've seen since a Chinese grandmother hawked a lougie on the sidewalk a few months ago.

I think this is going to deter me from visiting hawker stalls for a while, especially the one at my office.

If you remember, hawker stalls are like the American equivalent to a food court in a shopping mall, only they're a little more on the rustic side. It's pretty common for certain stalls to pre-make their food and then set it in big containers under warmers. If you're having trouble picturing it, here's a visual:

They'll put food behind the glass for display or to keep it warm. The problem is that some of these stalls don't have glass to surround all sides. That's when the flies start buzzing around. Since most Asian dishes are served in a sauce, you can imagine how easy it is for them to get trapped and stirred into our food.

I mean their food.

I'm not eating it anymore.

Sandra was pretty shaken up about it. Several of us in the office have vowed to bring a paper bag lunch for a while.

Or maybe forever.


Brad Farless said...

I'm sure you've eaten some of those tasty fat flies already.

Did you know that even in the US a certain percentage of rat droppings and roaches are allowed to be in grains? Ya. I wasn't too happy about that one either.

Best thing ever found in food for me was actually what my dad found. We all were eating from it though so I can sort of claim it. It was a can of pork and beans that had been heated and set out in a bowl with dinner. My dad bit down on something and when he pulled it out it was a huge thumbnail, at least a quarter of an inch long.

I try not to think about what I'm eating too much when I eat at hawkers. At least it wasn't fecal matter and poison like that one I mentioned recently.

Cori said...

Wonder how many flies you have eaten in 2 years? :)
Reminds me of that book "The Jungle". Ever read it? Don't, if not. You'll never want to eat in the US again either.

Anonymous said...

That's nasty and THAT is why I don't eat at hawkers. How could they possibly keep the bugs out? I packed up a lunch for Jake today. :D ~Karen

Brad Farless said...

Hey Cori, have you seen Food Inc.? It's a documentary about the US food industry that focuses on beef production and corn. I think you'd find it very enlightening. Makes me wonder if I'll want to eat beef at all when I go back to the US.

Megan said...

Ok Sis, even though you advised against it, I have to read it. I have a free copy on the way through Paper Back Swap. I feel as though I should be a well-informed citizen. They don't talk about what's in hot dogs though, do they?

I've successfully avoided that knowledge for 25 years. I'm fairly certain that finding out would be devastating.

Brad, I'm still planning to watch that one too. I did know about the percentage of "filth" allowed in US food plants, but seeing it in it's full form is another thing. Ignorance is bliss...

Megan said...

Karen, we were going to go to a hawker for dinner tonight. That plan has been scrapped. Now, we're off to Pepper Lunch...where WE cook our OWN food. :)

Beau Lotus said...

Roast meats like duck and chicken have to be hung up to drip dry. Or it wouldn't taste the same. That's why they taste better in countries that allow food to be hung out in the open. You'll find that in Chinatowns in Paris, London, Toronto, Sydney...

It's better than processed food that you eat too much of in the US. Sugar in canned tomato sauce, processed meat, hormones everywhere. It is common knowledge that you eat badly in the States. Come to Europe and you'll understand the difference.

Hygiene standards in Singapore are good. A good compromise between eating in a sanitised lab and too many flavours out in the open.

If you travel in poorer countries, you'll see that the best food is to be found in the streets - but you'll never discover them. Such a pity. Are the locals not made of bone, blood and flesh like people used to higher hygiene standards? They just have a tougher and stronger stomach.

Brad Farless said...

Kinda waxed poetic there didn't you Beau? Don't think the post ever questioned the financial status of street food consumers or their humanity.

I agree with you though about finding better foo in the streets. I try to find good street eateries when I can. I trust the locals to point the way and I usually don't end up sick.

Beau Lotus said...

We are talking about food culture here, Brad. A roast duck, for example, has to be hung out to drip dry to be good - for both rich and poor people. The flies are incidental, like bacteria and germs.

You can eat the same food in a posher and cleaner restaurant, but connoisseurs will tell you to get them in the streets - follow the pulse of the place. In Paris, I wouldn't worry about putting in 300 euros for lunch in a 3-star Michelin restuarant - because I will get value for my money. But in Singapore, you will get better value from a hawker stall.

I personally know expats in Singapore who never eat in food courts and hawker centres and I think it's a pity. Singapore is a clean place, there is no danger except in your head.

Brad Farless said...

But the fly wasn't in her head. It was in her sauce.

Beau Lotus said...

Precisely, it was in the sauce, but sounds like it also got into the head. More than 3 decades eating out in Singapore I've never gotten a fly in my sauce, so I empathise, I would have freaked out too. I have found a strand of hair once though, but I knew that it was an isolated incident.

Anyway, it's very interesting reading about other experiences and perspectives in the same country. The American girl is young, lovely and honest with her thoughts and discoveries. Hopefully she will have many other foreign experiences to blog about in the years to come.

I am much older and have gone through many more years of living away from home, and have seen myself look at the same things differently over time.

A decade ago we were in the States and we disliked it. My Hub went back over the years and said that it has gotten worse. But funny enough, I wouldn't mind going back to live there for a few years. Somehow I feel ready for the country when I hadn't been before. I am confident that I will live it differently today and even enjoy it.

Megan said...

Beau, I can totally understand your point of view with this. I agree that Americans eat waaay too much refined sugar, hormones and processed meat. However, that's the culture in which we're brought up. It's all we know.

But, as unhealthy as we are with our food, we're very clean about it. We're germophobes to the max. Our restaurants don't get an A, B, C, or D rating. It's simply you follow the guidelines for safe food production, or you close. There's not room for error.

I've noticed that Singapore isn't as sterile in certain environments and that germs aren't always on the brain like they are in the States. With that being said though, your food is always fresh, with little to no processing and little to no hormones. I'm sure even with the "natural" germs and inevitable bugs, it's still healthier than many foods Americans eat.

However, I'd take a processed cheese and "hormoned" meat sandwich with a side of refined sugar ice cream to a Chinese sweet and spicy dish that has one fly in it anyday. I may weigh 500 pounds, but at least I'd feel "cleaner" about it.

I know it may make no sense to you or to most people outside of the States, but it's just a difference of culture. Thanks for your insight. I can understand why you would dislike living in the States. After being abroad, my eyes have been opened to a lot of things.

Brad Farless said...

You just reminded me of how grossed out I was the first tine I saw how eating utensils and straws are distributed. Everyone that comes by dips their hands into the baskets brushing against what everyone else will eat with and put in their mouths. Can't help but wonder what might be on them. That's beside the point that most of them are dirty to start with and you have to dig for ones that look clean.