Is this one of those times when you can let go of your inhibition a bit, toss the tour guide away and go with the flow like a dead fish? You bet it is, as that’s exactly what the street food scene and the whole culture around it is all about. You still have to exercise some vigilance, but generally those domestic travel tips you get from your version of the Department of Travel and Tourism, Foreign Affairs, etc, get to being nothing more than filler-fluff for their websites to look like someone is actually working for the work they’re getting paid for nevertheless.
Well the travel tips extended to you for when you’re travelling abroad should never be discarded completely, but you just know someone, somewhere got a bit lazy when they suggest a blanket boycott on all street food that’ll be available when you visit a foreign country. Yes, there was a rather serious case of bird flu which swept across Asia some time ago, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that rather delicious-looking stir-fried chicken and snake beans (with chilli relish) dish in Jakarta will be the end of you, neither will the Thai noodle curry you’ll find in the Bangkok markets.
Get into the minds of the locals
If you are going to be filling up on street food, make like the locals and line up where they’re all lining up. I’m talking about the average city slicker who is perhaps standing in line for their daily fix of some filling street-prepared dish, like the hot dog stands you’ll find at the corner of a New York street or even something which would perhaps count as more of a treat, like a churro in the narrower streets of Sao Paulo.
The trick to this lies in the fact that you’re pretty much just making sure you get the food prepared fresh as food that goes quickly is backed up by a fresh supply.
Act like a tourist
In most instances you want to blend in as much as possible and not stick out like a sore thumb, as tourists tend to do, as hard as that may be. When trying to get your fill through street food however, letting the vendors know you’re a tourist can be to your advantage. You should perhaps wait until the lunch time rush has subsided a bit, then display some of that inherent inquisitiveness tourists tend to have, asking about the food. Ask what it is (what ingredients go into its making) and you’re almost guaranteed to be offered a free sample. If you play your cards right and let the street food vendor that you’re going to be around the area for a while, they’ll be even more generous with the taste sample they provide you, with the hope that you’ll come back another day and buy, perhaps even with more of your tourist friends.
So try to get the food as freshly prepared as you can possibly get it and interact with the street food vendors to get your street food fill while abroad.