Safe street food zone in New Delhi

Safe street food zone in New Delhi

SINGAPORE - India is known for its many beautiful tourist attractions, from Mughal-era tombs to colonial buildings and national parks.

It is also known for a not-so- beautiful condition named "Delhi belly", the tummy upset that has often befallen the unsuspecting traveller.

Drinking only bottled water and avoiding street food are some tips that travellers are given to avoid getting sick.

But street food is one of the best ways to appreciate the culture of a city so, in an attempt to separate Delhi from the bellyache, and allow travellers to sample India's famous street food without worrying about falling ill, two groups have joined hands to train street vendors in hygiene and sanitation.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, a government agency, and the National Association of Street Vendors in India (Nasvi) are planning to create safe food zones in Delhi and 14 other Indian states where food standards will be regulated.

Starting with Delhi, eight markets in different parts of the capital will be turned into safe zones.

Vendors are already getting basic training - such as washing hands before preparing food, wearing hairnets before serving food, and keeping food containers covered.

When exactly the zones will be declared safe remains unclear.

Half of these markets are in Old Delhi, a popular tourist destination located at the Red Fort, a 17th-century fort complex constructed by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

It has the highest concentration of street food in the city - from meat kebabs to fried snacks like aloo tikki or potato patties, and sweetmeats - served in its narrow and chaotic lanes, some of which are only navigable by foot or rickshaws.

"If we are able to improve the image of street food vendors, then business will improve," said Nasvi founder and coordinator Arbind Singh.

They are getting their inspiration from South-east Asia.

"We are studying Thailand, which was like us over 20 years ago, but now has street food that attracts everyone from the middle class to tourists," said Mr Singh.

This year, about eight Indian vendors even travelled to Singapore for the World Street Food Congress from May 31 to June 9 - the first time vendors set up stalls here and interacted with vendors from other countries.

There are an estimated five million street food vendors in India, of whom about 60,000 are in Delhi and dishing up some of the tastiest food in the country.

Overall, street vendors make up 90 per cent of the total food business in the country and can be found at street corners or in major markets in every city.

It's not only tourists who worry about how the food is handled.

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