Is street food safe and healthy? What precautions should be taken or rules followed when eating street food at new places? We list down important rules and pointers for tourists and foodies to follow before eating street food of any kind at any street food cart or market in the world.
Street food can be tasty, cheap and readily available but it can also be unhealthy, tricky and sometimes dangerous in whole lot of ways. People have been travelling a lot than they used to and they are travelling for street food. The street food of Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, China, Turkey, India and many other countries have been attracting millions of foodies every year. The idea of travelling to a whole new place on the global map and discovering the best of street food hubs tops the itinerary of every traveler, big or small.
However, discovering new food, especially street food, should be done with a little bit of caution. The fun of eating at dirt cheap prices can suddenly turn into a nightmare. There are simple things that every traveler should take care of while eating on the streets and even restaurants, for that matter.
While street food is prepared, stored and served in almost the same manner throughout the world, there are some things that every traveler or foodie should take care of or look into before taking a bite.
Following rules or points should be taken care of before eating street food:
- Vendors serve street food with bare hands, without gloves
- Street food vendors use a single cloth to sweep the cooking table, plates, spoons and everything else
- A majority of street food vendors use Palm oil to cook and fry street food
- Street food is prepared in used oil most of the times
- Street food vendors wash utensils in dirty soap water, used throughout the day
- Street food vendors ignore the overall cleanliness and hygiene at their stalls
- Street food vendors tend to ignore personal hygiene and cleanliness
- The paper used to wrap or contain street food is sometimes picked up the streets itself
1. Vendors serve street food with bare hands, without gloves
While street vendors in most of the European and Asian markets use plastic gloves to handle and serve food to their customers, many vendors simply ignore such practice, especially in major parts of India and some other countries where eating with bare hands is a regular thing. If you have no aversion to such practice then you can simply ignore it assuming that the street food vendor must be ensuring to keep clean hands. However, if you are somebody (like us) who can’t trust that enough then it would be good to eat at a street food stall where the vendor always has gloves on. But the thing is that the hands with the gloves on can be equally dirty as the hands without any gloves. Frankly, it is just a behavioural aspect – one that differs from person to person.
2. Street food vendors use a single cloth to sweep the cooking table, plates, spoons and everything else
This is a very common sight – street vendors tend to use a single cloth to wipe the cooking table, cooking utensils and plates and spoons. In some cases, they use the cloth to wipe the sweat off their brows, clean their hands and even furniture. If you see such a thing, be bold to either to point it out or go to another street vendor. If it is of any consolation then you can think of how we sort of do the same and it would be impossible to keep changing or washing the cloth after every single use. You must have seen that at your home too, right? So the only difference would be in the fact that you know where your cloth has been at home but in the outside world you can only imagine. Keep an open eye for such detail and if you see the street food vendor using any such cloth which seems soiled and diry beyond recognition, simply move on to the vendor.
3. A majority of street food vendors use Palm oil to cook and fry street food
Street food is mostly cooked in Palm oil as it is cheap and whether you like it or not, most of the street vendors cook their food with it. Palm oil is still used for daily cooking in many households and though they might not be that unhealthy, the quality and the way it is used decides the outcome. Try to avoid food stuff fried in Palm oil or at least check for the quality.
4. Street food is prepared in used oil most of the times
While common households too repeat oil used for frying food stuff even though it is not advisable, the oil repeated at street vendors can be overused at times. It can be differentiated by the dark colour tone it carries owing to excessive frying. If you doubt it ask the street vendor about it and if the doubt remains, skip the stall.
5. Street food vendors wash utensils in dirty soap water, used throughout the day
Street vendors don’t have enough water provisions and so they tend to wash utensils and plates in a bucket filled with water. It is mostly a pair of buckets of milk crates, one having plain water and the other with washing liquid or powder. They dip the plates and other utensils in the one having the washing liquid and then dip it in the one with plain water. Once done, they wipe it off with the same cloth that they use for everything, like said earlier. You can taste the washing powder in the food sometimes. Avoid such stall at all costs.
Also read: Pros and Cons of Street Food
6. Street food vendors ignore the overall cleanliness and hygiene at their stalls
Most of the street vendors operate from unclean and unhygienic spots, next to gutters, dustbins infested with pests like cockroaches and rats and more such things. Make it a point to avoid such stalls as you never know who would have tasted your food before you did, or what you might be eating disguised as your food. Above all, such unhygienic spots render the food unhygienic in every possible manner. Make it a point to never eat at such street food stalls.
7. Street food vendors tend to ignore personal hygiene and cleanliness
If you would have noticed, or notice enough henceforth, you will find that sometimes street vendors don’t look like maintaining their own hygiene even while cooking food for others. Undone hair, dirty clothes, sweat and bad odour are some of the things that are quite visible at times. On top of that, the fact remains that most of them urinate, scratch their body parts, pick their noses and do many such things like the rest of us, but while cooking. And it is quite evident that not all of them wash their hands after they are done with all of it. If you come across such a stall, simply move ahead.
8. The paper used to wrap or contain street food is sometimes bought or picked up from anywhere
A lot of street food stuff that we carry along from street vendors is wrapped in newspapers, magazine papers or other such papers. It will be surprising to know that a majority of street vendors buy the papers from just about anywhere, sometimes even picking them up from the streets. Try to avoid food wrapped in such papers and ask it to be wrapped up in a tissue paper instead. The best thing would be to carry along tissue papers to ensure the use of good paper.
Eating street food can be a whole lot of fun if quality and hygiene are priortised and though food available on the streets would always be the same, the way it is prepared and served can make the difference.
Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by lp@admin