Foodie’s dilemma: to eat street food, or not to eat street food

I’m traveling to Beijing next week (whoo!) to visit my brother, and I’m SO excited.  For me, traveling is the most fun when I go somewhere so radically different from my day-to-day that it’s slightly uncomfortable.  But here’s my problem — should I eat street food while I’m there?

Last year, the New York Times wrote about how some restaurants in China were using “recycled” cooking oil.  Gross.  But it wasn’t until my brother blogged about one particularly interesting bike ride through Beijing that I realized how disgusting it really was.

One afternoon, riding in front of him was a man on a tricycle with a very peculiar, rusty tank.  And tucked into the side of the tank was a long, greasy ladle.  Curious, my bro followed the guy, who happened to stop by the back of a restaurant.  Then, the guy did something really weird.  He lifted up a concrete slab from the sidewalk, revealing the oily sewage leading out from the restaurant’s kitchen.  And, yes, you guessed it.  Using his ladle, the man skimmed off the oily layer of used cooking oil from the sewage water, and poured it into his tank for “recycling.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I ain’t no frou-frou food snob — I’ve eaten everything from dog stew to BBQ rat to snake soup.  But maybe the risk of getting sick on street food isn’t worth it.  Would you still eat at China’s street vendors or cheap hole-in-the-wall places after seeing these pictures!?

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