Street food in India

11 Invaluable tips I have learnt travelling

 

I was lucky enough as a child to be exposed to a huge variety of food. Food I found normal, like creamy mussels with crusty French loaf, crayfish fresh from the ocean and snails oozing garlic butter  would send my friends  running looking positively nauseated at the thought. What I thought was normal others thought exotic, strange and completely inedible.

Lobster in Thailand

I still have a great love of food. Although I am not quite in the Andrew Zimmern Bizarre Foods  league I am willing to try most tempting tidbits.

I wanted to write this post because I have been told so many times  either “you’re brave” or “you’re crazy” to eat street food. There is a perception that you will get sick and your trip will be ruined. The last time I got food poisoning I remember it vividly and it was not from eating street food. It was from eating a chicken pie at the airport in Kuala Lumpur in 2009. A mistake I never should have made, but what can I say… I was hungry!  That’s right, I have not been ill since then and I have been eating street food throughout my travels!

When I travel I can’t bear the thought of missing out on something local, some little gem or a delicious treat that’s a taste explosion. I spend time researching online and whatever I can find to read by way of travel writers for ideas. I also do a quick search for any relevant television shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Parts Unknown watching an episode on the place you will be visiting will teach you a few things. A great television show offers you the opportunity to share the journey with the host. He introduces the most famous dishes and you might even find out where to eat them.

I don’t know about you, but in some of the places I have been it is definitely preferable to eat street food, rather than eat in a dodgy restaurant with an unhygienic kitchen that you can’t see. On the street you can watch your food being prepared and see the whole process. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!

Street food vendor
Pappadum seller Jodhpur India

Once you know how to go about choosing street food and what to look for there is a whole world of delicious experiences waiting for you. Food is a wonderful way to connect with people of other cultures. If we are open to the experience we can learn a great deal. No advice is fool proof, but hopefully these guidelines will make you brave enough to try some

Tips for eating street food

 

1. Look at the queues

Look at where the locals are eating. Obviously those with the longest queues are doing a great turnover, so the food is freshly prepared and has not been sitting in the sun.Also look at the profile of the people. If there are families in the queue you can be sure it’s a safe bet.

2.Cleanliness

Have a look where the vendor is cleaning his utensils and if the food is covered. Look at the oil and see if it’s clean. See that there are no food scraps lying around. If there are flies buzzing around then this is not the place for you.

Street food Cambodia
Grilled fish Cambodia

3. Avoid dairy products

Many street vendors especially throughout Asia and India use condensed milk. This is not problematic as it has been treated at high temperatures to kill off harmful bacteria. Fresh dairy products, if they are not kept cool, can cause you a great number of problems, so steer clear of them.

Street food in Melaka Malaysia

4. Avoid ice from street vendors

Many ice cubes and related products like shaved ice are homemade. There is no way of knowing if the water has been filtered or not so avoid them just to be on the safe side. If the ice cubes have a hole in the centre then they have probably come from an industrial machine. If so, you’re good to go.

5. Fresh salads and fruit

Salads containing lettuce, cucumber and tomato should be avoided. The ingredients have probably been washed with tap water. Vegetables that have been pickled in any form are safe. In India, don’t eat fruit with skin on without washing it with bottled water.

Street vendor Laos salad

6. Regional Food

One of the best tips I was given was by a fellow passenger on an Indian train. The train was filled with delicious aromas, but I was hesitant to order anything. He saw my dilemma and gave me some great advice.That was if in doubt eat vegetarian food. When you are at the sea eat seafood. It took me about another 30 seconds to order a delicious thali  (a selection of small dishes).

Street food Little India

7.Hygiene

Take some hand sanitizer with you. If in doubt you can always wipe your cutlery and / or your hands before eating.

8.Fresh juice

There are stands all over Asia serving wonderful concoction of exotic juice. Just make sure that the vendor presses the fruit in front of you. Stay away from fruit that has not been peeled. Don’t buy anything that has been in a jug or is served in a glass.

Juice street vendor in Luang Prabang Laos

9. Deep fried foods

Don’t be horrified if a vendor tosses a partially cooked item back into a wok of hot oil. Food heated to high temperatures kills bacteria, so fried food is an excellent choice if you are in any doubt.

Noodle Queen Penang

10. Rice

If rice is precooked and is left around all day it has a tendency to ferment. This is probably not technically a correct word, but bacteria start to grow quite quickly. This often happens if large quantities are made and it is not quickly consumed. Always make sure that the rice is fresh before you order it.

11. Markets

I almost never have breakfast in a hotel. The first thing I do is head for the local market especially in Asia. Not only are they a showcase for wonderful fresh seasonal produce there are almost always stalls set up to feed the hungry shoppers. You can be sure that they would not be there every day if their food was in any way suspect.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Bangkok

In conclusion

If you bite into something that doesn’t seem right don’t assume that it is supposed to taste that way. No matter what you do some foods may not agree with your stomach. If you don’t normally eat spicy food and decide to eat a chilli laden treat it will affect you.

Step out of your comfort zone and be prepared for a wonderful experience.

 

Have you ever been sick eating street food while travelling? If so, where? I would be interested to know.

HERE ‘S A REMINDER TO SAVE TO PINTEREST FOR LATER

 

How to eat street food without getting sick
How to eat street food without getting sick

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Eat street food in Asia without getting sick

    1. The is a certain deliciousness about street food that you never find in a restaurant. I am glad that you find the tips useful- keep on enjoying street food wherever you are!

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