Many people would never dream of buying street food from a stall when traveling, and with the number of horror stories out there, that’s understandable. Reports of widespread contamination and severe food-borne illnesses are common. As a result, choosing the right stall can feel like a minefield if you don’t know what to look for.
I’ve been seriously ill many times in my eight years of traveling, but in my experience, it’s nearly as likely to come from a nice sit down restaurant as from a street food stall.
Street stalls are an important part of the culture in many countries, and they are where you’ll find some of the most delicious and authentic cuisine. They also happen to be a cheap way to eat well. It pays to be cautious, but there’s no need to miss out on street food altogether if you follow a few basic rules. (See also: Eat These 6 Foods to Stay Healthy While Traveling)
Only eat at local mealtimes
Wherever you are, spend a little time figuring out what time people tend to eat their meals. One way to do this is to observe the areas that serve street food and make a mental note of when they get busy. You can also ask a local resident for the inside scoop. Once you’re armed with the local mealtimes, stick to them rigidly and make sure that the stall you choose is bustling before you start to order.
If you arrive before or after peak times, you won’t know how long the food ingredients have been sitting around. You want a stall with a high turnover, constantly refreshing their ingredients and swapping out utensils and containers. When it comes to street food, it’s always best to follow the crowd.
Look closely at the queue
In almost every other aspect of life, queues are looked at as a tedious and unnecessary waste of time. But if there is not a line of people waiting to order at the stall and you’ve followed the point above, then you should be questioning why.
Put simply, queues mean quality, because people don’t stand in line unless they know they’re going to get something that’s worth waiting for. Consider queues your best friend. They don’t just mean that the food will be tasty, but they virtually guarantee that it will be fresh and safe to eat.
In areas where competition for street food vendors is high, this applies even more so. Quite often, street food stalls that sell exactly the same dishes will group together in one place. Though it seems counterintuitive, the economies…
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