Enjoying local ‘street food’ is one of the great delights of food travel, especially Asian food travel. It’s cheap, fun and the way the locals eat.
It may feel a bit more risky than five star restaurants but by keeping a few basic food safety principles in mind, you can be adventurous and stay well.
Food (and drink) gets more risky the longer it spends at warmer (but not really hot) temperatures, especially if it’s contaminated through washing or contact with ‘germ carrying’ surfaces.
So uncooked food, especially if washed in dubious water, food that’s been around for a while, or recycled, will be more risky than eating at a busy, freshly cooked hot food stall.
It pays to stand back and watch what’s happening for a moment. If there’s a queue and food is moving fast, the chances are good that nothing is left at the end of the day and food starts fresh. Popular stalls are less likely to risk their reputation by making people unwell, than quiet spots who may need to take short cuts to make ends meet.
It’s also a good tip to follow the crowd and ‘have what she’s having’. Not only will this often be the safest option, it’s probably also the best and you can just point to what you want.
Lonely Planet guide books usually have a ‘food section’ that lists the ‘don’t miss’ street foods that are unique to each area and this is a good place to start.
But a fun (albeit much more expensive) way to enjoy street food easily and safely with a knowledgeable local guide, is to join one of the increasingly popular street food walking tours offered by both global and local organisations, and even private individuals.
(Let’s face it, what a great tourism business opportunity for locals with low overheads and minimal effort to organise).
Intrepid Urban Food Safaris are offered in many cities, but these aren’t necessarily the best option available. It pays to do some research.
On my wish list for later this month is Reality Tours and Travel’s Mumbai Street Food Tour that will take in the great street food stalls on Chowpatty Beach as well as all the busyness and excitement of Mohamid Ali Road selling incredible evening food to those breaking their fast during Ramadan.
Another favourite on my list is the Foodies Day Out tour in Madurai South India.
But whatever your style, sampling street food safely, is an experience not to be missed!