Tips for Eating Street Food in India

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One in three visitors to India ends up suffering from a stomach upset. It’s a shame, because one of the greatest joys of travelling to a new country is sampling the local food. Street food is especially popular in India, and is well worth sampling. You don’t want to ruin your once in a lifetime trip by staying in the bathroom, but at the same time you don’t want to miss out on one of the greatest foodie experiences you’re likely to encounter.

Thankfully, you can reduce the chances of the dreaded “Delhi belly” by following these tips.

Tip #1: Remember the Golden Rule

Wherever you are in the world, the Golden Rule for street food is “boil it, bottle it, peel it, cook it, or forget it!”

Tip #2: Take Some Time to Adjust

You might be tempted to go straight from the airport to the first dhosa stand you see, but it’s worth resisting for a few days while your stomach gets used to the new cuisine.

Tip #3: Go Where the Locals Go

Although it means standing in a crowd, jostling for the tastiest morsels, it’s always best to go to the carts which are busiest. Not only does that mean they have the stamp of approval from people who eat there every day, it also means that the food won’t be sitting out for long.

Tip #4: Scrutinise

Don’t expect the same high standards as 5 star hotels in New Delhi, but make sure that basic food hygiene needs are being fulfilled. Have a peek at the cart to find out how the “chef” is cleaning his pots, knives, and other bits and bobs. Don’t be scared to walk away if the cart looks dirty, or if there are lots of flies buzzing around.

Tip #5: Avoid Pre-Sliced Fruit and Iced Drinks

That shiny piece of watermelon may look fresh and tempting, but ask yourself how it manages to stay so moist in the searing heat of the day. The answer is probably that the vendors are spraying it with the famously unclean tap water. And bear in mind they probably make the ice cubes out of that water too. Choose fruits that you can clean and peel them yourself.

Tip #6: If it’s Not Piping Hot, it’s a No-Go

Food that’s been left sitting out for a while is notoriously bad for harbouring bacteria; especially in India, where the weather is warm and there are insects everywhere. Choose food that you’ve seen being prepared fresh. Remember fried snacks are sometimes partially cooked then left to sit: when you order them they’ll be thrown back in the wok, and the high temperatures should kill off any nasty bugs.

Image by Shashwat Nagpal via Flickr

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