Eating Street Food In Asia Can Be Done Safely Without Getting Sick

Street stall serving delicious Thai food in Bangkok, Thailand – copyright mattmangum, Creative Commons License

As an expat who’s lived in Thailand for years, I love eating street food. It’s healthy, delicious and perfectly safe, particularly if you know where to eat it and how to order it. Tourists, on the other hand, come to Thailand and avoid eating street food, simply because they don’t trust it and think they’ll get sick. If you’re going to be in Thailand and want to try authentic Thai food, the street food stalls are where you’ll find it and, if you follow these quick tips, you’ll get a great meal and eat food that’s completely safe.

Quick Facts About Thai Street Food –

Although, obviously, it’s cooked out in the open on streets crowded with people and traffic, Thai street food is often safer and healthier than food you’ll buy in a western supermarket. The reason being, unlike in the west where the animal the meat came from was killed months ago, in Thailand the meat you eat at a street food stall was clucking, mooing or swimming only a day or two ago. Fresh meat has less bacteria. Simple.

Thai food also is made with a myriad of spices. Spices have been used for centuries in countries like Thailand to kill germs and bacteria in food. The essential oils in the spices are an anti-bacterial and are miraculous against things like E. coli and Salmonell, and that’s also a big reason why it’s quite difficult to get sick from street stall food.

Tips On How To Buy Street Stall Food Safely –

1. One of the first tips to follow to make sure you eat street stall food safely in Thailand is, if you’re going to sit down at the stall, only eat at stalls where a lot of people are already eating. Thais are fastidious about food and will travel miles just to eat at a particular stall. If the stall you’re interested in eating at is packed with Thais, you can guarantee the food is not only delicious, it’s also safe.

2. When you buy meat on sticks, sausages, squid etc, choose the pieces you want yourself. Instead of letting the vendor grab a couple of pieces and shove them in a bag, choose pieces either still on the grill or ones that have just been taken off. The heat has already killed the bacteria, and eating them while hot will make sure of it.

3. Order food at street stalls where it’s cooked while you watch and don’t choose foods that have been sitting getting cold. A steaming hot bowl of noodles is a great choice, tom yam geung (spicy shrimp soup) or a fresh Thai omelette with rice, mixed and cooked while you wait.

4. If you’re wary about getting sick at a street food stall, eat more vegetable dishes and less meat dishes. Vegetables have enzymes in them that keep them fresh longer, so they’re less likely to make you ill.

5. Thais eat rice with most meals and, it’s a good thing for you to do at food stalls too. Rice is a plain, starchy food which works well to keep your stomach settled. In fact, my mother, who has major food allergies and gets sick from food often in the US, has never been sick from food she’s eaten in Thailand. She swears it’s because a Thai friend told her “always eat rice with meals and your stomach will be okay”. It’s always worked for her and will probably work for you.

6. Avoid foods made with mayonnaise. As a resident of Thailand, I eat sandwiches made with mayonnaise on the street all the time, but I frequent the same vendors and know they’re safe. Mayonnaise is one of those food items that spoils quickly so, if you’ve never eaten from that street vendor before, avoid it.

7, If you’re looking for fresh seafood at street stalls, either eat at seaside resorts, where you’re guaranteed the fish was swimming this morning or, in Bangkok, eat at food stalls in Chinatown – renowned for having the best and freshest seafood in the city.