Without doubt, my favourite thing about visiting new countries and discovering new cultures is getting to try the local food — and eat like a local. You just can’t beat it! Checking out the local street food scene is the ideal way to get your taste buds tingling. So-called ‘street eats’ are usually highly authentic, extremely tasty and freshly prepared. Furthermore, as eating street food is normally much cheaper than dining out in a restaurant, it’s a great way to keep spending to a minimum while travelling.
However, not everyone can just tuck in freely. If you have any kind of dietary concern, condition or intolerance, here’s how you can get your fix of scrumptious street eats without making yourself poorly:
The biggest queues
One of the best pieces of advice I could give anyone who wants to tuck into street food is to follow the crowds! If a street food vendor is extremely busy and attracts a seemingly never-ending queue, that’s always a good sign. Okay, so you may have to wait a bit longer for your food, but it’ll be worth it. Look for where the locals seem to be queuing up too, not just other tourists. These guys know which vendors can be trusted and which ones may be a little unsavoury!
Stand back and watch
Another top tip when it comes to telling whether street food is safe to eat, is to simply stand back and watch the vendors for a little while. Are they cleaning their equipment regularly? Is there any risk of cross-contamination? Are they keeping bowls of food covered and away from flies? Keep an eye on them for 5-10 minutes, and you’ll quickly pick up on any unhygienic practices the vendors are using. If they appear to be clean and there’s no risk of cross-contamination, dig in!
If you’re not vegetarian already, you might wish to consider trying out a few meat-free meals if you want to experience the best street eats on offer. In many regions of India, for example, meat is not a staple part of the local diet and is often only cooked for tourists. When meat is left out in the heat all day, bacteria can multiply at an astounding rate – a recipe for disaster. Eating more like a local, and exploring all the veggie delights in sight, will ensure you avoid eating any infected meats, while also reducing the risk of aggravating any medical conditions or dietary concerns. Vegetarian food can be delicious too, you know!
Again, this tends to only apply in particularly hot countries. Unless the vendors are using condensed milk, dairy products could have been sitting out in the sun for quite a long time. Consuming warm dairy products is a surefire way to give yourself a tummy ache, whether you’re lactose intolerant or not! Keep away from any fresh dairy products and learn how to say ‘no milk’ in the local language if you want to avoid all milk entirely, even condensed. The same goes for any other foods that you may need to avoid, like nuts or gluten.
Stock up on meds
Finally, if you have a medical condition like diabetes, then you’re definitely going to want to stock up on medication before you go away. It’s recommended that you carry twice as much as you need, just in case you lose your medication or it happens to get damaged. Sometimes you can be super careful with street food, but still find yourself coming down a little unwell, so ttock up on anti-dehydration tablets too, just in case!
Street eats are a real pleasure, but it’s essential to be careful about what you eat when travelling abroad. Follow these top tips and enjoy tucking into a variety of local culinary delights!
Do you have any favourite street foods or tips to add to my list? Let me know in the comments!