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I remember standing at a food stall in China, staring blankly through the plastic window of the vendor’s cart and not having any idea where to start. There was a whirlwind of activity sweeping through the night market as vendors tossed things on sticks onto grills and lowered pans into boiling pits of grease.
Street Food 101: 9 Tips for Eating Street Food Safely (Slideshow)
I felt like a fish out of water, and I made some poor choices of obscure meats that night that had my stomach twisting and turning like a roller coaster.
There is no better way to get up close and personal than through experimenting with the different foods around a country, and meandering your way around street food markets and stalls that are lined with mind-blowing, bizarre and surprisingly delicious dishes.
Food offers travelers a world of exploration in itself, and it is one the best ways to discover a country. Using food as your travel guide can help you to learn about a country’s people, its flavors, and its culture on an entirely new level. Peel away the layers, and there is so much fun to be had, whether it is befriending the locals huddled together at the tables next to you, being the brave foreigner who tries the notoriously spicy bowl of curry, or just helping you to discover new culinary likes and dislikes.
However, many travelers remain hesitant to put their palates and stomachs to the test when it comes to eating street food; sometimes, rightly so.
There is always a risk that comes with eating street food that will send even the biggest, bravest, and most adventurous appetites home crying, but there are ways to avoid that and go home happy and ready for your next culinary challenge.
Luckily, years of trial and error at food markets around the world have helped me to not only develop an iron stomach (three months traveling India and I was sick only four times!) but have also helped me to develop a framework for how to stay safe while eating street food.
There is some legwork that can be done before a trip, like reading up on a country’s most common culinary offerings, but most of the work is done on the ground, like checking to see how the vendors are washing their dishes and whether the cart is swarming with locals.
So as you ready yourself (and your stomach) for your next adventure, be sure to follow these 9 tips on how to safely eat street food no matter where your travels bring you.
Do Your Research
Have an idea of the kind of food you will find in a particular country. Is the culture big on fish, or do the locals love their beef? Will you mostly find noodle dishes or lots of curries? How is it prepared, and what kind of spices or sauces might you come across? It is good to know the culinary lay of the land!
Look Around the Stall
Does the crockery and condiment tray seem clean, or are things peppered with smears and fingerprints? How are the vendors washing the dishes and utensils — are there dirty dishes piling high on the sidewalk right beside where they are cooking? Are there tables and chairs that are wiped down clean — are there napkins out on the table? Check out the vendor’s etiquette. Are the vendors using tongs when they pick up the food and fry it or throwing it on the grill bare-handed? These are little things to take into account when scoping out some stalls.
Keep reading for more tips on how to eat street food safely.
Alexandra E. Petri is the travel editor at The Daily Meal. You can follow her on Twitter @writewayaround
A fter traveling in India for sometime it becomes apparent that life there (for 100s of millions of people) seems to revolve around three things: eating delicious food, worshiping God and doing these two activities with one’s extended family. Below is a list of tips I’ve learned to help you stay healthy while still enjoying the absolute delight of eating cuisine in India.
Every town has its unique style and specialties for you to explore and indulge in. It’s definitely wise to take precautions and know what not to eat in India as this is the most likely cause of getting dysentery.
The safest way to eat in India is to never eat from vendors on the street and only visit classy restaurants that are busy and look “clean”. Often times 4 or 5 star hotels may be the best bet for buying mouth watering, tummy satisfying, safe food.
What’s the bottom line?
You will inevitably be exposed to some kind of “bugs” while you’re in India but you will only get sick if your body can’t handle them, which is usually due to overeating and weak immunity or digestion. Follow these tips below and you will minimize the chances of getting sick.
Bean Health Benefits
Dry edible beans bring several health benefits to the table because they are naturally a rich source of several nutrients, and they contain negligible saturated fat and no trans fat or cholesterol.
According to published research, bean consumption may reduce the risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. Additionally, a diet that includes beans is associated with lower body weight and better control of blood sugar among those with diabetes.
For those who have food allergies or follow special diets (such as vegetarian or gluten-free), beans are valuable because they provide nutrients, including fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals, that may be missing or low in specialized diets.
2. Cooking Beans
Cooking the beans makes them edible and digestible. Use cooked beans in your favorite recipes or refrigerate beans in shallow containers if they are to be eaten later. Freeze any extra beans within 4 days after cooking them. Beans can be cooked by using the stovetop or a multicooker/pressure cooker.
- Place beans in a large pot cover with fresh water and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently until beans are tender but firm. Most beans will cook in 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the variety. Periodically, try a taste test or mash a bean against the side of the pot with a fork or spoon. Check occasionally if you need to add more water. Here are some approximate cooking times for beans:
- Black beans: 60-90 minutes
- Great Northern beans: 45-60 minutes
- Kidney beans: 90-120 minutes
- Navy beans: 90-120 minutes
- Pinto beans: 90-120 minutes
- When to add flavorings:
- Herbs and spices may be added any time, but it is recommended adding them towards the end to reduce flavor loss.
- Add acidic foods (lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, wine, etc.) after beans are cooked as these foods can prevent beans from becoming tender.
Multicooker/Pressure Cooker Instructions
Refer to the manufacturer's instructions to learn more about specific cooking recommendations for your model. Here are some general instructions:
- Place beans in pressure cooker cover beans with about 4 cups of fresh water. Make sure there is about 2 inches of water above the beans.
- Seal pressure cooker and cook according to the manufacturer's instructions. Adjust cooking times as needed depending on the variety. Cooking longer will result in softer beans. Beans should be tender but not mushy. Here are some approximate pressure cooking times for beans:
- Black beans: 20-30 minutes
- Kidney beans: 20-30 minutes
- Navy beans: 25-35 minutes
- Pinto beans: 15-20 minutes
- Allow 20 minutes for natural pressure release after cooking. If beans are not quite tender, cook them again on high pressure for 10 minutes and then quick release the pressure.
- Drain immediately.
Updated by Kayla Colgrove and reviewed by Cami Wells and Tammie Ostdiek. This article was originally written by Alice Henneman.