A couple of years ago, Moscow's Mayor Luzhkov started bulldozing kiosks within 10 meters of metro stations. So kiosk proprietors needed to rethink their strategy. What if the laws change again? What if they rebuild their kiosk outside the 10-meter prohibition zone, and then Luzhkov goes on another rampage and starts tearing down all the kiosks within 20m?
The answer: go mobile. Put those kiosks on wheels and if shit hits the fan again, hire a chinaman to rickshaw the kiosk away before the bulldozer gets it. Unlike all the 90s kiosks, which were just plank thrown on the asphalt sidewalks, newer kiosks have discovered The Wheel.
With new kiosks have also come new food trends in the kiosk culinary world. The new mobile fleet of kiosk food is hopping on the elitny bandwagon, offering Italian, Chinese, Nazi, French and American-styled fare. There are even sushi kiosks, for chrissakes!
But before you celebrate, consider this: According to a 2004 report by SES (Sanitarno Epidemiologicheskii Sobe-sednik), a monthly magazine put out by the Moscow's office of sanitation, nearly half of the kiosks failed rudimentary inspections simple things as maintaining proper refrigeration temperatures, keeping different meat separate and touching money then food without washing hands. By law, every worker in the food industry must undergo regular medical checkups and keep an updated medical history handbook handy. But SES reported that over 90% of these books were counterfeit. Twenty-five thousand workers were found with infectious diseases. And that's just a small sample of the larger kiosk food workforce! Think of it, the prodavshit-sya handing you that pirog could be one of the 41 people identified as having a highly contagious form of tuberculosis (that's a real stat). These are official government statistics available to anyone and the language of the publication doesn't even try to paint a rosy picture. To the average food-pussy, this may be scary news. But our readers are hearty people. And poor. What they want to know is, which kiosk food should I eat? Thus was born my Kulinary Kiosk Tour, a tragid story of one eXile editor's digestive tract's losing battle with kiosk food.
Day 1: Riksha I Van
The worst experience was definitely Chinese. I first sampled Riksha i Van get it? near Puskinskaya ploschad and the food might as well have come from a pond. It was fluorescently bright and covered with a shiny slime. According to the prodavshitsa, their food is delivered to their kiosks once a day in the wee hours of the morning and then microwaved to warm and soggy perfection upon order. She also claimed that all food is dumped after 24 hours. I ordered their beef chow mein with curry sauce (55R) just after 6pm The heavy curry sauce (in chow mein?) was clearly used to mask the rankness of the meat. A close inspection proved that there was indeed a hint of a smell of rot t. I went through about 1/2 of the stuff before I gagged and had to move onto the second course, bright orange sweet and sour pork (75R). According to the prodavshitsa, this dish was the most popular, especially with the "well off" clients. Personally, I couldn't tell the difference between the foam-like fried batter and the meat.
Conclusion: Do I VAN for breakfast.
Day 2: Huan He
Next day I went to Huan He's to compare the Chinese kiosk options... and was surprised to find exactly the same chow mein! It was identical in consistency, heavy curry flavor and price. The prodavshitsa microwaved my order way too long, starting and stopping the microwave a few times to feel the bottom of the Chinese takeout containers. When the grease is dripping, the food's ready. At the end, the dishes still came out lukewarm. I guess Huan Ho deep freezes their food and that's a good thing. The beef definitely fresher than at Riksha's. Huan He's been around longer. Also, Huan He has what Riksha doesn't: a vegetarian menu. Don't be fooled. The veggie wontons were made of pure tasteless dough stuffed soggy unflavored vegetables. The woman at the kiosk even recommended that I pour the special spicy vinegar sauce on them. The sauce gave the wontons a kind of slug-like texture. They were impossible to consume. I don't even think it had any MSG on it.