Photo by Author. Spicy, Crispy, Street-Side Samosas in Myanmar
Crispy empanadas stacked and sprawling emit fragrances that could make even the most finicky of travelers scarf down a plate. Pad Thai is twice as flavorful and half as expensive in Thailand, and street Kebabs after a night out in France have a higher turnover than their restaurant counterparts anyway!
Traveling offers an abundance of opportunities to sample local favorites and imported flavors. How could you turn that down? As long as you have a discerning eye, you can sample some of the best food in the world like a mad man without even losing a day to stomach grumbles.
Wondering how to eat street food without getting sick? Here are 4 essential tips for eating smart on the street:
1. Choose your Food Wisely: Sure a street ceviche and an already-cooked pork skewer look tasty, but only if you’re willing to gamble upon the food’s freshness. Typically, a smart street-eater might steer clear of meats and fresh fruits and vegetables in favor of something fool proof– fried, boiled, and seared are always good! Pick something that is stored and cooked to order for the least chance of contamination.
A couple options include Vegetarian Pad Thai, Churros, Chow Mein, Samosas
2. Follow the Crowd: Step down trendsetters, this is the time to do as the locals do. If a crowd of Mexican diners are vouching for a burrito stand, chances are it’s not only safe, but delicious. Also, the more people blowing through, the quicker the food turnover… which means less chance of a yucky stomach bug for you.
Eat at the standard local breakfast or lunch time to see the most popular places in action.
3. Screen for Sanitation: Food cleanliness is part of a huge realm of subjectivity and you’ll have to set your own standards when you see it– flies are a serious reality in many parts of the world and a quick rinse is considered “washing” at particularly busy food stalls. Use discretion and ask questions about water or cooking methods if necessary. Soon enough, you’ll develop a new standard for “clean” and knowing what to look for will make is not so scary anymore.
Watch them clean up the previous order to see if they’re using clean water and soap.
4. Eat it Anyway: Sometimes the best food comes from an establishment that looks flat out shady. If you’re brave, it might be worth taking a risk on a mango lassi or an agua fruta, as long as you know basic precautions (ie. purified water) have been taken. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and enjoy every last sip. Usually, you’ll have no problems at all!
Theres too much to sample in the world of cuisine to always stick to restaurants. Flavors emerge in an entirely new way and the breadth of local food is broadened significantly if you’re willing to experiment. If you’re new to street food, take it slow, but I’m confident your first trip won’t be your last! Enjoy!
Interested in experiencing the local cuisine? Check out one of Gray Line’s foodie tours on GrayLine.com!
Where and what was the best street food you have ever eaten? (If you can’t see Facebook comments below, click here to go to the full version of the Street [Food] Smarts: Traveler’s Guide to Eating Street Food Blog Post.