Odishatv Bureau

No story on Indian cuisine can be complete without the inclusion of street food, says celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

"Indian cuisine has three important parts - home food,restaurant food and street food. Indian street food reflects the country's ethos and also mirrors the ever changing needs of the Indian consumer, be it the man on the streets or the
one living in an ivory tower," says Kapoor.

The chef is the celebrity face at the sixth edition of a four-day National Street Food Festival organised by NASVI (National Association of Street Vendors of India) that began here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium complex.

"As a child, eating street food was something you indulged in without adult supervision. During those glorious ten minutes of a school recess, I indulged in the usual chats, sherbets and ice golas. I try to make them at home and try out a classic street food as well!" says the chef.

The chef, who hosts his own television show, says he is very excited to take a look at the innovative dishes which will be an integral part of the festival this year.

Delicacies such as Ragra Pattis from Mumbai, fish curry and sandesh from West Bengal, non-alcoholic Konkani drinks from Goa, Litti Chowkha and Tash Kebab from Bihar and other innovative dishes are slated to be on the menu at the street food fest.

"Street food festivals are always a good idea because it is the best way of promoting this cuisine. This will create
awareness and will expose people to street food from across the country," says Kapoor.

Shedding light on the importance of health and hygiene associated with street food, the celebrity chef is of the opinion that street food is healthy and hygienic since it is always served hot.

"There is a lot of debate on the safety of Indian street food. There are many who believe that street food of India is many times safer than those served at restaurants!

"It is shocking but this statement is supported by the fact that street food is cooked for the day and served hot on the spot," says Kapoor.

Breaking out of the usual format of just organising a festival, NASVI has also organized a mass training program on food safety and hygiene of more than 1000 roadside chefs who are participating at the festival.

"With street food there is no monitoring of ingredients used. It is not just about the freshness but also whether or not the colours used are safe for consumption, whether the food is stored in an area free of contamination from insects, animals and dangerous bacteria.

There is a lot here to be regulated and regularized, a mammoth task considering the number of hawkers and food vendors in every lane of the country," says Kapoor.

Urging vendors to serve hygienic food to patrons, the culinary expert says there is need for strict food laws but not at the cost of the appeal of the street delicacies.

"Yes, there should be hygiene and other laws related to safety of food in place, but with these laws the charm and the raw appeal of street food shouldn't suffer. I would request the vendors to look into the quality of ingredients, do not compromise on the health of patrons. Do not serve anything that you wouldn't serve your own family!" says Kapoor.