India has an amazing array of street food. They are so tempting that at times you can’t resist.
It happens with me a lot if I am passing my favorite Vadapav seller.
I try my best but I just can’t resist it.
It actually acts as a beacon attracting me to itself.
So what exactly is Indian street food? The List of Indian street food is endless. But I think the most popular ones would be Pani Puri, Bhel, samosa, kachori, jalebi to name a few. Some of these dishes have become so iconic that they are available and relished on every city street.
This is a guest post by Maheshwar who is an Engineer by profession and finds cooking AND eating local delicacies very therapeutic.
Maheshwar says “Street food in India is evolving for good for food junkies like me. Here is my list of 27 Indian Food Street food which includes the most popular as well as some ‘Unusual Suspects’.”
So coming to the point on how to eat Indian street food safely here are some tips.
1. Indian street food is spicy by nature. So start off with food which are easy on your stomach.
Idea is to have less oily and less spicy street foods. You correct there are some health street foods too. Like having something things which are like steam foods.
For e.g. Dhokala, Idlis, Momos and then build upon the spicy street food.
All the above examples are steamed food which comes with some kind of chutney. So go easy on the chutney and dishes themselves won’t have much of spice.
You can give some couple of days before you attack the amazing spicy Indian street food.
2. Always try out from the street vendor who has the most crowd. Basically, it ensures everything made there is fresh and tasty which explains the crowd.
On another thought, if they are selling out the food so fast it’s bound to be made fresh. so the possibility of contamination is pretty low.
If the food makes people sick he won’t be in business for long.
3. Check your tolerance on the tamarind and raw mango powder to start off with little quantities.
These are basically acidic and have laxative property. So it can give you bad stomach problems. Tamarind based chutneys are sweet and tangy so hard to resist, go easy on them. and dried mango powder is added to give the sourness to the dish.
If you have acidity problem better to avoid it else, you may get acid reflux post having it.
Same applies to the case with Chat masalas. Chat masala is a blend of different spices which has raw mango powder as the main ingredient in it.
4. The Chili spice, I love eating it so much of it.
But if you are not used to eating a lot of chilies you can always ask the street vendor to adjust the spice level. Every street food vendor can adjust the spice levels as you wish.
you will find both red chilies and green chilies, of both green chilis, are easier on the stomach than the red chilies.
Normally you will find green chilies served fried along with the street food. so you can easily opt out. But my recommendation is you should try it once they may be firey on your palate but is indeed a tasty experience.
5. Any hot beverage street side should not cause any problems like Chai (Tea with milk) as it’s boiled. The milk tea which normally is made by boiling tea leaves, milk and other spices like ginger and cardamom along for some time which eliminates any bacterial growth
Just ask for a paper glass or the earthen kullad (disposable earthen cup) as they are one-time use the possibility of any bacterial contamination will be low.
6. Fresh juices are good to have but make sure you avoid the Ice in juice normally the water for ice can be questionable.
Also, the hygiene may not be up to the mark during the transport. This ice normally comes in big blocks from the ice factory and then they are cubed and sold to the street side vendor.
So have the juice freshly squeezed in front of you without ice added to it.
7. Try to have vegetarian street food unless the place you are trying your meat is a very reputed place. Meats can be had if they are being prepared on a grill, tandoor, or fire in front of you and served hot off the fire directly.
Food poisoning due to vegetarian food is not as extreme as compared to food poisoning due to Non-vegetarian food. you can very well enjoy your non-vegetarian food in some reputed restaurants.
But take care when you are having street food.
8. Fried snacks should also be safe enough to eat. But make sure they are piping hot when served. If you feel the smell of oil is funny just avoid it. It can be due to oil has gone rancid. you can take a judgment on this one.
But beware different parts of India uses different types of oils like mustard in North which is pungent, central uses sunflower or groundnut oil and in the Kerala in the south, they use Coconut oil.
So smell will vary based on which part of the country you are.
9. Street food can be high on spices for your belly. So try out locally made curd to cool your system down or maybe if you have a sweet tooth you can have lassi. Lassi has a cooling and soothing effect on your stomach.
10. If possible have a look at how your street food is being made, you can get an idea on how all the ingredients are being handled. so you can judge if you want to eat or not.
I don’t care much if all the locals are enjoying there, then it should be good. It’s a good idea to ask them if they can customize it for your liking.
11. On the day of long travel, it’s better to avoid non-veg food. Better have easily digestible foods like idli, dosa, poha, and other local breakfast dishes.
All the above dishes are normally available during breakfast time.
12. If you are eating fruits from the street side vendor insist on cutting the fruits in front of you. so you know they have not been stored out exposed to insects.
13. Remember it’s not always the street food which can cause a problem it can be your hands. Many street foods in India has to be eaten by your hands directly. so always wash your hands or use a sanitizer before you handle your food.
14. If you do get a bit of upset stomach, try drinking some fizzy drink it will help you feel good. This can relieve some acid reflux or the gas build-up due to indigestion.
15. Do not overeat as things are tasty you may be putting too much load on your digestive systems. Alternate between heavy and light meal so you can go on eating street food.
Lighter are ones which are kind of steamed food. and fried stuff can be heavier on your stomach.
16. If you are allergic to mustard or groundnuts its will be very tough to have street food. These are very commonly used, in Indian street foods. People which such allergic problems should always carry medication along.
17. Following street food can be a shock to your digestive system so try eating them a day or 2 after you arrive when your body has got used to Indian food
I. Pani Puri
III. Bhaji with Chutney
IV. Misal Pav
There is no way you should miss out on all the above street food delicacies
Safe to eat street food which is light on your belly
II. Dhokla avoid sweet chutney
IV. Wada Pav
V. Dahi Wada / Dahi Bhalle
VI. Momos avoid the spicy Chutney.
Lastly, don’t worry too much about the consequences just enjoy your experience.
Indian street food is indeed an experience no one should just miss because you are afraid of spices.
Even if you fall sick don’t worry, you’re on a quest to enjoy street food – the sickness will go but the taste will remain with you forever.
If you don’t try the street food of India the only thing you will regret is not trying it .
STREET FOOD SAFETY: 14 TIPS TO AVOID GETTING SICK WHEN YOU TRAVEL
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