Not Just Shawarma, 9 Harmless-Looking Foods That Can Be Fatal
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Indian cuisine is renowned for its rich flavours, diverse spices, and vibrant street food culture. However, beneath the enticing aroma and delightful presentation lies a potential danger: foods that may seem harmless but can lead to serious health complications or even prove fatal if not handled or consumed with caution. 

While Indian cuisine offers a tantalising array of flavours and textures, it's essential to be aware of the potential health risks associated with certain foods. By choosing reputable vendors, ensuring proper hygiene practices, and being mindful of personal dietary limitations, enthusiasts can continue to enjoy these culinary delights safely.  This article delves into nine such deceptively innocent Indian foods, shedding light on their hidden risks and offering insights into how to enjoy them safely.

1. Pani Puri

Pani Puri, a beloved street food across India, consists of crispy puris filled with a tangy mixture of flavoured water, tamarind chutney, and spicy masala. While its taste is irresistible, improper preparation or hygiene can turn this seemingly harmless snack into a vector for waterborne diseases like cholera and hepatitis A. The water used to make the pani (flavoured water) might be contaminated, especially during monsoon season or in areas with poor sanitation. To mitigate the risk, opting for reputed vendors and ensuring they use filtered water is crucial.

2. Lassi

Lassi, a traditional yoghurt-based drink enjoyed across India, offers a refreshing respite, especially during scorching summers. However, consuming lassi made from unpasteurized milk can lead to bacterial infections such as brucellosis or salmonella poisoning. The fermentation process itself can sometimes go awry, leading to harmful bacterial growth. It's advisable to choose lassi from reputable establishments and ensure it's made with pasteurized milk.

3. Bhel Puri

Bhel Puri is a popular savoury snack comprising puffed rice, vegetables, tangy tamarind sauce, and crunchy sev (fried noodles). Despite its seemingly harmless ingredients, the risk lies in the hygiene practices during its preparation. Contaminated hands or utensils can introduce pathogens, causing bacterial infections or food poisoning. Opting for freshly prepared bhel puri from clean, well-maintained stalls reduces these risks significantly.

4. Chaat

Chaat encompasses a wide array of street snacks, each bursting with unique flavours and textures. From spicy samosas to tangy papdi chaat, these dishes often use raw ingredients and spicy chutneys that can mask potential hygiene issues. Improperly stored or handled chaat ingredients can harbour harmful bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella, leading to gastrointestinal infections. Choosing vendors with high turnover rates and maintaining strict hygiene practices are essential precautions.

5. Kulfi

Kulfi, a traditional Indian frozen dessert, delights with its creamy texture and sweet flavours. However, the use of unpasteurized milk or contaminated ingredients during preparation can lead to bacterial infections such as listeriosis or brucellosis. Additionally, improperly maintained kulfi molds or storage conditions can exacerbate these risks. Opting for kulfi from reputable vendors and ensuring it's made with pasteurized milk can mitigate these health hazards.

6. Chole Bhature

Chole Bhature, a popular North Indian dish consisting of spicy chickpea curry (chole) paired with deep-fried bread (bhature), is a staple indulgence. However, the combination of deep frying and spicy ingredients can pose risks such as heartburn, acidity, or aggravation of pre-existing gastrointestinal conditions. Moderation and pairing with cooling yogurt or lassi can help mitigate these potential health effects.

7. Jalebi

Jalebi, a beloved Indian sweet made by deep-frying batter in coil shapes and soaking them in sugar syrup, embodies indulgence. However, excessive consumption can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, posing risks for individuals with diabetes or metabolic disorders. Additionally, hygiene during preparation and storage can affect its safety. Enjoying jalebi in moderation and from trusted sources can help minimise these health risks.

8. Samosa

Samosas, triangular pastries filled with spiced potatoes or minced meat, are a ubiquitous snack enjoyed across India. However, improper frying or storage conditions can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus or Clostridium perfringens, causing food poisoning. Ensuring samosas are thoroughly cooked and consumed fresh from reputable vendors reduces these risks significantly.

9. Street-Side Cut Fruits

Cut fruits sold by street vendors offer a refreshing alternative but can harbour hidden dangers. Improper washing of fruits or exposure to contaminated utensils can introduce pathogens like norovirus or E. coli, leading to gastrointestinal illnesses. Opting for fruits that can be peeled and ensuring they are washed thoroughly before consumption can help mitigate these risks.

Remember, the key to savouring Indian cuisine lies not just in its taste but also in ensuring it's prepared and consumed responsibly.