January 6, 2015

Guide to Eating Street Food when Traveling

Amazing BBQ from this street side vendor. 

One of the most exciting things about traveling is trying new foods, well for me it is. I look forward to sampling things I've never heard of or tried before. Even some things I would never have imagined putting into my mouth.  
I am willing to try almost anything once.  I've had street food across Thailand and now Vietnam. I've also eaten in my fair share of very local places in Oman and  Nepal that would make you question my sanity. Knock on wood, but I've never gotten sick.

Asia is particularly lauded for its street food. The food's good and cheap. Like really cheap. 
I wouldn't exactly call myself an expert but from my experiences so far I've compiled a few tips for eating street food when traveling. I know for many people this is one of the most difficult part of traveling and they tend to stick to foods that are more western or familiar.
Not only is that super expensive but a big part of the culture is the food and it would be a huge disservice to you to not immerse yourself wholly in the culture of the places you travel to.

Here are just a few of the tips I've picked up along the way. 

1. Choose stalls/vendors that are busy. Lots of action typically means that the food is good and chances are the food is freshly prepared. 

2. Relax your standards of cleanliness a little. You're more likely to get sick from worry than you are from the food. In real life I am a germaphobe, I always wash my hands before eating and cooking. I carry sanitizer and disinfectant wipes everywhere but when I travel there are things beyond my control. I refuse to spend my time focusing on what's going on with the cook or what's on the plates. I would miss out on some amazing food if I did.

3. Eat where the locals eat. They know the beast places with the best food.

4. If you have no clue what to order, look in someone else's plate. If it looks good, try it. When I was in Vietnam I couldn't read the menus most of the time but if I saw someone eating something that looked amazing I'd just get it. This strategy hasn't failed me yet.
I saw a local lady eating this at a very popular spot in Hanoi's Old Quarter. Had no clue what it was but everyone was eating it so of course I had to give it a go. It was delish!

5. Don't be afraid to eat from strangers especially the locals. I've had random people share their food with me and it gave me the opportunity to try something different. Definitely exercise some degree of caution and it's ok to say no if you just can't bring yourself to accept but lighten up some. I haven't gotten sick.
I ate this fertilized duck egg offered by a stranger at a roadside bar while in Vietnam. First time I spat it out so they gave me another. LOL and I ate it.  

6. Go with your guts. If someplace just doesn't look clean, don't eat there. I've been on the verge of fainting from hunger many a times but refused to eat simply for the sake of eating. I always refer back to tips 1 and 3.

7. Always walk with imodium  just in case. The truth is that no matter how much caution you exercise there is still the potential to eat something that doesn't sit well with you. It's good to be prepared. Get the quick release which promises to relieve stomach issues in an hour.


Here are just a few of the awesome meals I had while in Vietnam. All from street side vendors.
quail eggs

Bun Cha. marinated pork served with rice noodles and herbs
I think this is called Banh Xeo but I don't know for sure. It's like a  hard taco shell stuffed with shrimp and  some noodles among other things. I had no idea how to eat it so the waitress took a piece and made a little wrap in the thing below that looks like paper. You dip it in a sauce and eat. It was really yummy.

I can't remember the name of this dish but it's a sort of thin pancake steamed and then stuffed with minced port. its covered with dried shrimp and shallots and coriander. You dip it in the sauce which has one piece of roast pork. You take little bites of the pork as you eat the noodles. 

Fruits in coconut and condensed milk served with a little bit of crushed ice. Surprisingly good. 

And of course there was Pho!

Hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope it has encouraged you to step outside your comfort zone even just a little.
Besos!

4 comments:

  1. I LOVE this post! These are all great tips, and I will definitely keep these in mind when I head to China!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it Britt. I hope you will go out and try all the amazing foods when you travel.

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  2. i think you're so much more adventurous in eating than me! though i'm okay with most street food in asia and have a pretty strong stomach. :)

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    1. Haha Esther. I try to live on the edge sometimes. It makes for a good story.

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