One of the most exciting and memorable ways to explore a new culture is by immersing ourselves in unfamiliar culinary experiences. Food is essential aspect of travel, and there’s no more authentic cuisine than street food sold from vendors carts. Any U.S. citizen who has traveled to China or India can confirm that real Chinese street food and Indian street food don’t often bear much resemblance to the take-out options we usually see in our own North American cities. The best street food can be found in busy, colorful marketplaces or behind the counters of food trucks parked along winding side streets. If you intend to launch a quest for the best Malaysian, Thai, Brazilian, Finnish or Indian street food, or the best street food of any country while traveling abroad, you may want to bear certain considerations in mind.
1. To find the best street food in a busy area, like a crowded marketplace, look for long lines. The best French, Italian and Chinese street food vendors are probably popular among local residents as well as travelers. A deserted street food cart in the center of a crowded public square may be a bad sign.
2. Trying new street foods can be a wonderful culinary experience. You may become hooked on acaraje in Brazil or pork spring rolls in China, and you may want to stop at every stand you find, but make sure you expose yourself to other experiences as well. There may be more than one form of delicious Brazilian or Chinese street food that you won’t be able to find at home.
3. Culinary risks can be fun. Health risks, not so much. Vegetables and fruits sold from street food carts have often been washed with local water. If you’re in doubt about the water supply or have been advised not to drink local water, try to select fruits that you can peel on your own. If street food offerings don’t seem fresh or sanitary to you, err on the side of caution.
4. Everything in moderation. Remember that in almost every country in the world, even the best street food may not be the healthiest option. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol, keep at least one eye on your daily consumption of fried, oily or sugary street food.