A new way of preparing street food is taking center stage in the informal business sector of the Liberian market.
As it stands, plantain chips and chips made from other materials, as well as vegetable salad, instead of being left open in street places to invite flies from the garbage and septic tanks, some businesspeople package them in pieces of white styrofoam plates or bowls and seal them with light plastics in order to be protected from germs spread by flies.
Besides protecting the food from insects when sold in open places, it is also protected from damage during rainfall.
A woman who operates the Queen Rose food preparation center said she learned to package her snacks while living in Ghana and has been doing the business in Liberia for about two years now. Declining to disclose her name, she said she uses flour, egg, milk, oil and other ingredients to produce the crispy chips.
According to her, she uses over LD$4,000 to produce the chips in an affordable market quantity to spread in marketplaces in various locations around Monrovia.
Despite the huge cost to produce the tasty chips in huge quantity for distribution, she said, she is able to realize her capital and profit, and the commodity does not leave over until the next day.
Commenting on the sealing of the chips, she said “I have the machine that can seal the plastic on the food to protect it from flies and bad air, and as you can see it, the quantity here will finish before the day goes.”
She sells regular sized pack of chips for LD$50.00 while smaller packages in plastic cost LD$10.00.
Although Ministry of Health claims to have put in place measures to protect street food as well as one sold in shops and restaurant, poor preparation and maintenance still continue to pose challenge with regards to consumer acceptance.
With the exception of roasted fish or meat that hungry customers find secure to buy because they are sold hot, straight from the grill, most other food items remain exposed to flies and polluted air and are not easily sold out the same day. Sometimes they are reheated for the next day.
Fried plantain, eddoes and potato chips, roasted corn, raw cassava and coconut pieces, sliced pineapple and boiled meat (also called meat pepper soup) constitute foodstuffs that are often exposed to air and flies in street places in Liberia.
Health-conscious customers are afraid eating such exposed food, especially when sold in an environment that is constantly filthy despite efforts by the various municipalities to provide routine cleaning.
Customarily, street food is sold in tubs or bucket covered with top or a piece of cloth, but opened when sellers sit in a particular location to sell. Once opened, customers are allowed to pick among the contents, usually with a toothpick, and buy.
Unlike the sealed food that a customer buys and carries it without interference by polluted air or flies, the old style of preparation allows a buyer to be busy driving away flies as the food is placed in a thin piece of paper for eating.