The article below was originally published on Taking Time to Travel.
One of the most exciting parts of travelling is trying new and exciting dishes and immersing yourself in another country’s food. Unfortunately, many tourists fall for tourist traps and eat in unauthentic restaurants where the food is overpriced and far from anything that the locals would eat.
One of the best ways to properly experience another culinary culture is to hit 23the streets and experience some local street food. There are many reasons to try street food and many travelers eat little else when on the road. Not only is street food cheaper and faster than eating at a restaurant, but it is usually also more authentic and often better than the food served in restaurants. This is especially true of some countries where the food seems literally made for and by street vendors. In Mexico, some of the best tacos and wraps come from street carts. In Thailand, the very best pad Thai is usually served from a cart on the side of the road.
Even though there are many advantages that make eating street food is one of the highlights of backpacking in a foreign land, there are still certain things to look out for.
First of all, even though street food tends to be more authentic, there are still street vendors that are tourist traps, serving subpar or overpriced food. The best thing to do is to watch the locals and see where they queue up to eat. Another thing to look out for is the fact that street food can sometimes be ‘too’ authentic. Some cultures are used to eating certain foods that are not exactly considered delicacies in the West. It is always good to keep an eye open and make sure you don’t order anything you wouldn’t like to eat.
The main thing to look out for when eating street food is hygiene. In countries where street vendors are used to tourists, such as Thailand, hygiene is rarely an issue. Still, it is a good idea to always stay vigilant and take some precautions. The most important thing to look out for is water. In countries where tap water cannot be drunk, make sure that you do not eat anything that has been washed or in contact with tap water without being cooked. The same goes for ice cubes. Whilst cooking will kill most bacteria in water, freezing does not. If you are getting a drink from a street member and the ice cubes look ‘home made’, maybe avoid the ice. Contaminated water can lead to all sorts of nasty ailments, so be sure to always keep an eye open. A general rule of thumb should be to only eat food that is properly cooked. Other than water, it is wise to look out for meat and other foods than can go off. If a street vendor is serving raw meat without having an refrigerated container, it’s best to avoid the meat. Seafood is also always a risk.
In most cases, you won’t get sick from street food, but it is important to always use your common sense. For the best experience with street food, keep an eye open for the most popular vendors and eat there. Food poisoning can be nasty, but it’s well worth the risk if you’re a big foodie.