I was chatting about travel at work last week (surprising, I know) and a colleague asked if I eat street food while traveling. The woman who posed this question isn’t a traveler, she takes her vacation each year to Disney World, or if she decides to go wild she goes to Disneyland. I’ve traveled (for work) with this woman before. She freaks out if we try to eat somewhere she’s never heard of. She loves national chain restaurants (Olive Garden and PF Chang’s). Finally I decided, I just can’t talk travel with this woman.
I do eat street food. I like to be a traveler not a tourist. The locals eat street food and the reason I travel is to experience other cultures, including their food. Street food is usually very cheap too. Because of this I’ve had some great street food all over the world, including:
- Easy and Safe Tapas in Spain
- A wonderfully entertaining motorbike ride with multiple dining stops in Saigon
- A strange night party and carnival in Siem Reap
- A bustling market on a frigid day in Shanghai – Loved the soup dumplings
- Hawker Stalls in Singapore
I’ve been fortunate and have never gotten sick from eating street food. I’ve gotten sick while traveling, but never from street food. When eating street food, I follow a few simple rules:
- Always eat at places that have at line – the more people the quicker the food turns over. No customers mean the food ends up sitting out longer, giving more opportunity for bacteria to grow. Plus, if the food stall has a long line that means the local customers like the place. It has to be worth trying.
- See and smell the food. If you see flies or other insects on the food, you should likely stay clear.
- See the people preparing the food. Are they clean? Are their action sanitary?
However street food can be a little scary – like most things, I say trust your gut. If you think something isn’t right, you are probably right. In other words: Stay away.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten from a street vendor? Has street food made you sick? Do you have any advice for street food novices, above all else?