Everyone, even those who don’t travel, need to know how to eat street food safely. It is widely recognized that an essential part of any travel is the street food experience. For so long it has been somewhat restricted to certain parts of the world – most especially in the East, but street food is really catching on in the West too. Though it is becoming more widespread across more cultures, there are still some rules to eat street food safely to avoid a holiday upset. Eat street food safely whether it’s at a dosa stall in Bombay or a dog stall at the ballpark.
1. Eat Where the Locals Eat
One of the best ways to eat street food safely is to take note of where the local crowds eat, or ask the local inhabitants for a recommendation if you’re looking for somewhere to buy food. If a vendor is extremely quiet, or seems to be avoided by the locals, chances are that the food is not overly good; or worst possible case, that the food is unsafe. In short, observing your surroundings and being extremely careful about where and what you eat is your best bet at circumventing any street food related health issues.
2. Try to Avoid Eating Meat
Meat is one of the most common causes of street food related food poisoning, which unfortunately makes avoiding meats one of the most important tips for enjoying street food safely. If you do have to eat meat from a street vendor for some unforeseeable reason, it’s best to only eat meat that you have seen killed or do so in the early morning, as it’s generally cooler, and the meat has (hopefully) not been sitting out for that long. Sticking to a vegetarian diet, especially in warmer destinations like Indonesia, Thailand and India, however, is definitely the best way to avoid getting sick.
3. Don’t Eat Anything Washed in Tap Water
Many seasoned travellers have long since learned how to enjoy street food, and tend not to make rookie mistakes like eating meat or drinking the tap water. Something that the majority of people don’t think about, however, is that a lot of fresh foods such as salads and fruits are often washed in unsafe tap water, making them unsafe to eat. You also need to be careful if you order soft drinks or alcohol from a street vendor, as any ice provided to go with your drink is most likely also made from tap water.
4. Try Not to Eat Anything That You Don’t See Prepared
It is quite difficult to know if street food is safe or not, and to decide where to eat if you haven’t been in an area for very long, and you don’t have the opportunity to come into contact with the locals. In this case, however, one of the best tips for eating street food safely is to observe how it’s prepared. If the food is stored out in the blazing sun and washed in tap water before being served raw, for example, then you’ll most likely want to eat elsewhere.
5. Take Note of the Vendor’s Hygiene Practices before Ordering Anything
Observing a vendor's hygiene practices is one of the most important tips for enjoying street food safely, as one can assume that the food is only as clean as the person cooking it. Making sure that the vendor is handling the food in a hygienic manner and not cross contaminating the vegetables with the raw meats (for example) is a great way to ensure that you don’t get sick. You may also like to make sure that you wash your hands and follow proper hygienic practices before eating, however, or you may be making yourself sick!
6. Give Your Body Time to Adjust to the Local Cuisine
Depending on where you’re travelling, it is sometimes important to let your body get used to the cuisine before ordering any outlandish street foods. In India and Thailand, for example, the locals tend to enjoy their food rather spicy, which can be too much for a newcomer’s stomach. One of the most sensible tips for enjoying street food is therefore to give your stomach a little time to get with the program before you let the culinary good times roll.
7. Bring Your Own Utensils
It is a seemingly common practice in many Asian countries for street vendors to reuse eating utensils such as chopsticks. If these are not properly washed, however, you run the risk of contracting any number of different illnesses. A great way to eat street food safely is consequently to pack a couple of sets of takeaway chopsticks or utensils into your bag, so that you have everything that you need with you.
As with most things, common sense is usually at the basis of all advice. Street food should be a brilliant experience and a journey right into the heart of a location’s culture. Follow the ways to eat street food safely and enjoy some brilliant tastes. Have you ever had any bad luck with street food?