10 reasons why not to avoid street food
If you ask someone who just came back from his travels, what the country was like, in many cases you will probably hear the answer: ".... and that food, you have no idea"!!!
It is obvious, that "that food" didn`t come from McDonalds. The best delicacies one usually finds on the street. If you are avoiding street food from some causes, here are 10 reasons, why you shouldn`t.
1. Great taste and variety
In our western world one usually doesn`t eat just to have full stomach. As usual, we want more. We want to smell new aromas, spoil our taste buds and caress our demanding tummies and such.
If you eat on the street, believe me, you will experience so many new flavors, scents, consistencies, visual surprises, originality in food preparation, that your head will be spinning.
2. One can see into the kitchen
I personally do not know many restaurants back home, where one has a chance to have a look into the kitchen and see whether it is clean, whether the ingredients used for your meal are fresh, frozen or whether the cook had to wash a slimy layer from the meat first. This can never happen to you when it comes to street food. You simply see everything that is happening there. Firstly you can watch how they prepare food for others and only then decide whether go for it or not.
3. Cooking school as a bonus
The fact you can see the food preparation has more advantages than the ones mentioned above. As in many cases you can see how the dish is prepared from the very beginning. So if you love cooking or you find out that the dish from that place tastes so fantastic, you do have to make it for, yourself back home, you have a unique chance to learn how to make it. All along you will see loads of other interesting stuff. For instance that it is possible to cut hard boiled egg with scissors (Vietnam), that the easiest and compared to our polystyrene boxes a bit more ecological take away packaging is a simple plastic bag. And not only in terms of main courses, but soups and drinks too (South East Asia), and that the best grill for clams is a corrugated iron (Borneo).
By the way, inspiration for coming up with Authentic World Food idea, rised from exploring street food as well.
This point is probably clear enough. In 99% of cases street food is the cheapest way to eat when travelling. Of course I am not talking about home cooking. Wait, still even compared to home cooking street food can be often way cheaper.
5. Meeting point
If there are some places to sit, they are usually very close to each other. And definitely there are no rules, like this table is for this customer or group and this one is for you. So before you say a "blueberry pie", there are five locals sitting by "your" table, with curious looks in their eyes, interested in how you are enjoying their traditional meal, laughing at the way you hold the chopsticks and trying some kind of a conversation, which is usually very funny. If you are lucky and some of them speak at least a little bit the same language like you do, you can learn loads of interesting things about local people, culture and life.
6. Support of local community
It is probably clear, that if you eat at McDonald`s or Radisson, there is no question local community doesn`t see a penny of it. But if you eat on the street, in most cases you can be sure, that what you paid for the food you just enjoyed, goes right to the person who prepared the food for you with love and to his family. And that this person bought the ingredients from local market from local farmer etc. etc. …
7. Waiter will not forget what you don`t eat
Has it happened to you, that you asked and stressed to the waiter in a restaurant, that you have an allergy for onions, that you would really appreciate if the chef doesn`t put it into your salad? And then he brought it and of course the onion was in it?
This will not happen to you when it comes to street food. As in many cases there is no waiter there :) So the one, who communicates with the chef, what you like, what you would love to get more, what not at all, is just you and you can check constantly if the chef is following your wishes.
8. There is no need to worry about tips
Have you ever tipped with a huge smile from ear to ear a beautiful waitress in a restaurant in Canada, thinking naively that 10% in already a very expensive restaurant is super generous and she angrily nearly threw it back in your face, as simply in Canada 10% tip is nothing? There is no need to worry about it in street food "restaurants". They are not used to tips there at all. Even do not try to show your good will by trying to tip, as in most cases local master chef will give it back to you completely not understanding what you are doing.
9. You can experience some new adventures
When I have seen for the first time chicken satay being prepared and served directly from a motorbike in Indonesia, I didn`t know, whether to shake my head or smile. Motorbike simply just stopped by a person who waved on it, the local buddy quickly jumped off the bike and with a piece off cartoon in his hands started the fire. The fire was actually started already, as all the way the charcoal was silently smoldering on the grill placed on the side of the motorbike. Then he took a few pieces of chicken meat from a box with ice, put them on skewers, from a few ingredients mixed a peanut sauce and sliced a roll of rice cooked in a banana leaf.
Today I view it completely different way. I sort of envy them. I envy them the freedom, that they simply decide, they are going to make chicken satay, knock together their "restaurant", place it on motorbike, do not bother with the useless paperwork, running around institutions like hygiene etc. … and the business is running.
The one who decides, if it is ok from hygiene standards and quality point of view is the customer.
Imagine trying to open such a place in some western country. You will be finished even before you mention the idea in front of the first clerk.
It may surprise you, but most of street food is often safer than eating in hotels.
And how you recognize, whether a certain place belongs to the ones which to "risk" or not? Except for what I already mentioned, that you can see, whether the place is more or less clean and the ingredients fresh, the main indicator is, whether you can see many locals eating there or nearly nobody.
It is the same like back home. If the restaurant is empty, something is telling you, that it will not be the right choice. People know, why they are avoiding it and as the food is not moving there at all, the chance it is fresh is very low.
Is the restaurant full? Do not hesitate and go there. Locals simply know ;).
And if it happens that you get a bit of a food poison … this is simply part of travelling. It can happen to you back home too. And you never know, where and how you got it. May be you just touched a wrong door handle ;). Just use your common sense and in all cases have some medicine with you. In case it gets more serious, get something from local pharmacy, they know best. And don`t you worry, you will recover and will recall your food and travel adventure with a smile on your face, like me in the blog post "10 tips how to loose 6 kilos in one month…" ;)
Remember, if you do not try local street food, it is as if you were not in the country at all ;)
About Bo on the road, the author