I always try and immerse myself in the local food culture. In many parts of Asia and South America, I have found that street food is very much part of the culture. As the diligent traveller that I have chosen to be, I always try to find a way to participate. Street food is usually served in small portions and at very economical prices, which encourages the trial of a wider variety of foods, than if one was to go to a restaurant.
I am aware that some people have opted out of street food due to legitimate fears of food poisoning. However, if you are still on the fence I would like to share some nuggets I have found useful in navigating this culinary experience. These rules generally serve me well as I can count in my hands (more than 40 countries down the line) the number of times that street food has made me unwell, and in each case I can trace it back to being impatient/greedy and thus ignoring one of these rules.
1. Bring Tissue and hand sanitiser
Use these to clean your hands before eating as there nay sometimes be no hand sanitiser.
2. Check hygiene of the food stall
Pay attention to the cleanliness of the utensils as well as the food handlers. Make sure that the food area is generally clean. Ensure food is covered from dust and insects.
3. Order from busy food vendors
Try opt for stalls where there is a high flow of locals. This would signify that the food is a good sign of the quality and safety of the food as it is likely the food is made fresh as you wait. It is usually worth the wait.
4. Cooked/Hot food must be piping hot
Ensure that food is thoroughly cooked and is piping hot. This ensures that any bacteria is killed off by the high temperatures, which reduces risk of tummy trouble.
5. Do not order food that has been sitting in the heat for a long time
If food is cooked and out for a long time this may provide ample time for bacteria to grow and thrive which will not make for a happy stomach, long after you have eaten the food.
6. Use bottled water
Drink bottled water with sealed containers
7. Be mindful of food /drinks with ice cubes
In areas where the water quality is not great, avoid ice cubes in drinks to avoid potential tummy trouble
8. Be mindful of how you consume fruit and vegetables
If ordering fruit or from the market, take it home and wash it before eating, particularly if you consume the skin. Alternatively, peel off the skin yourself.
9. Start gradually
If you are not accustomed to the type of food, or street food in general, ease yourself in. Start with mild options and gradually explore more adventurous choices.
10. Trust your instincts
If something does not look or smell right, trust your instinct and select another food vendor.
Comment below if you have ever tried street food. Where was it, and how was the food.