Many travelers make a rule of never eating the food they find on the street, fearing all manner of diseases. Instead, many of these travelers choose food from restaurants where they cannot see the kitchen or preparation, which can be more dangerous. Since day one on this trip we’ve eaten food from street vendors where we’ve found it and have NEVER been let down.
It began in Mexico when we sat down at our first taco stand, we carefully ordered one of what everyone else was eating, then another and another. The stands owner offered us some spices to make it tastier which we foolishly took, setting our mouth on fire. Not only did we survive but dinner that night and breakfast, first waiting in a long line, the next morning were also consumed on the street. In Africa we actually expected to find bush meet, basically cooked baboons and other wild animals, for sale in the streets. All we’ve found so far is chicken and beef and our skewers with chips were quite nice, in fact some of the best food we’ve had here in Africa so far this trip.
The rules of street food are easy:
1. If it looks questionable skip it.
2. If you don’t see it placed on the fire yourself, ask for it to be reheated before you buy and begin eating.
3. If you smell the food from a mile away, get in line and buy two. Oh, and even if the fish looks good, unless I can see the body of water from which it came, I pass.
Eating this way serves two very real, good purposes. One, it allows us to save loads of money as this food (like hot dogs in New York, half smokes in DC, and crepes in Paris) generally are the cheapest and best value available; it is always hot and can generally be purchases on the go with spare pocket change. The other reason its so good is that most travelers seem to prefer the guidebook recommended restaurants and so you’re often on your own with locals who are happy to share their culture’s favorite foods with you and make sure you’ve got a good sample to try. Someone famous once said you haven’t experienced a new place until you take a meal there, I think that’s true but taking a chance on the street food is often the best way to do just that.