Street food has an enchanting way of captivating our senses and immersing us in the heart of local culture. From the sizzling skewers in Southeast Asia to the mouthwatering tacos in Mexico, these delectable offerings often define the essence of a place. However, for all their pleasure, street foods also come with concerns about safety, particularly for travelers.
How can you savor these irresistible delights without the risk of falling ill? In this blog, we explore the art of relishing street food safety. We’ll share valuable tips and insights to ensure your culinary adventures are not only delicious but also safe.
Table of Contents
Focusing on Street Food Safety
Check out the length of the lineups
Street Food Safety is crucial when choosing where to eat. One useful tip is to observe the length of the lines. Many people recommend eating at stalls with long lines of local customers, which is still good advice. However, it’s also important to consider who is in line.
If you notice a mix of women and children waiting, it often indicates that the stall has been checked and is safe for everyone. While it’s better to pick a long line of men over an empty booth or one with crickets, if you have the option, going for a stall with women and children in line is the safest choice.
You might also like: What is Travel Fatigue: Here Is Everything You Know
Stick to fresh, hot food
It’s essential to stick with fresh, hot food to ensure your street food safety. Hot food is considered safe because the cooking process uses high temperatures that can kill many harmful bacteria and microorganisms.
However, you must remain vigilant to protect yourself. Avoid eating undercooked foods, particularly when it comes to animal proteins.
Undercooked meat can harbor not only bacteria but also parasites, which can result in severe health problems. A simple pill won’t be enough to resolve these issues, so it’s best to stay away from undercooked dishes and prioritize food that’s thoroughly cooked and piping hot. This way, you’ll reduce the risk of food-related illnesses.
Lean towards transparent Kitchen/Street Stalls
Transparent kitchens or street stalls give you better control and visibility over how they handle food and money. If you see someone handling money and touching the raw ingredients without proper hygiene, it’s a sign to avoid eating there. Similarly, if they use the same plastic gloves for food preparation and handling money, it’s best to steer clear.
In a two-party stall where one person manages the cash while the other takes care of food preparation, it’s usually a safe choice since they keep these tasks separate. Trust your senses when deciding where to dine. Not to say that restaurants are entirely off the table, but in places with a vibrant street food culture like Mexico City, Saigon, or Bangkok, opting for street food safety for most meals is often a wise decision.
Be keen on the Cutlery you are using
It’s important to pay attention to the cutlery you use. Even if the food is safe and fresh, cutlery can be a source of bacteria. To ensure your utensils are clean, consider carrying baby wipes with you.
Use them to clean older wooden chopsticks or utensils that appear poorly washed. It might raise eyebrows, but it’s a handy way to ensure sanitary cutlery. Alternatively, having cute portable chopsticks is another solution.
Don’t often resort to this extra cleaning or chopstick method, but it’s valuable to have the option, especially when you’re away from urban areas. An added benefit of this street food safety is that if you find yourself in need of toilet paper and forget to bring some, you can always rely on your baby wipes!
Eat with the locals
Align your eating schedule with the locals to try and keep your street food safety on point. Some restaurants may not handle food responsibly, allowing cooked dishes to linger at room temperature. Proper food storage is a significant aspect of food safety, as the longer cooked food remains exposed, the more bacteria can multiply and pose health risks.
When you dine at the same time as the residents, you encourage restaurants to prepare and serve food immediately. This eliminates the downtime for unwanted bacteria to thrive on food. Quick food turnaround times guarantee that your meal will be hot and fresh.
Additionally, your food is more likely to be delicious because it hasn’t been sitting around for an extended period. We’ve all experienced buffets where food gradually deteriorates under heat lamps, and it’s an experience to avoid. So, for your safety and enjoyment, eat in sync with the locals and relish the fresh, hot meals.
Peel your fruits
Peeling your fruit is a prudent practice, especially if you’re not acclimated to a new location and its bacteria. It’s best to stick to fruits with peels that you can remove. Options like bananas, papayas, mangoes, rambutans, and mangosteens are plentiful and delectable, and your stomach will appreciate the choice.
Steer clear of fruits like apples, where you consume the skin, and avoid lettuce. While strawberries may be tempting, it’s advisable to avoid them in countries with high pollution levels and uncertain water quality. Prioritizing peelable fruits is a simple yet effective way to protect your digestive health while enjoying the local flavors.
Sauces can be a problem
While a good table condiment can be appreciated, sauces can sometimes be a source of concern for travelers. The reason behind this is that in many places, these sauces are stored at room temperature, which can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria over time.
The approach to using sauces can depend on the consumption habits of fellow diners. Suppose it’s a dish where condiments are generously added by others, such as bun rieu soup in Vietnam, where omitting wet chili paste would be considered sacrilegious. In that case, you might be more inclined to use them.
Currently, in Oaxaca, Mexico, sauces have been consumed with all meals without any issues, which means street food safety is good. Places bustling with people and families have been deliberately chosen, observing that nearly everyone generously scoops these sauces onto their food, adding confidence in their freshness and safety.
In conclusion, enjoying the world’s street food offerings need not be a gamble with your health. By adhering to the principles of Street Food Safety, you can embark on culinary journeys with confidence. From peeling your fruit to choosing fully cooked meals, paying attention to your surroundings, and being mindful of sauces, these practical guidelines can help you savor irresistible delights without worrying about getting sick.
Embrace the local flavors, explore diverse cuisines, and create unforgettable gastronomic memories during your travels. With the right precautions and a dash of culinary curiosity, you can experience the true essence of a place through its street food, knowing that your safety is as intact as your taste buds.