Tips For Eating Street Food


It doesn't take long for tourists to Thailand to realise that street food is practically a way of life there. Considering that many houses aren't equipped with proper kitchens, (and raw ingredients can cost more than prepared meals), it's no surprise that eating out is more common than eating in.

Tips For Eating Street Food

If your priority when travelling is to experience the culture and enjoy amazing food, the Thai street food scene will be a dream come true! Bangkok is indeed the country's mecca of street food, but there are plenty of stalls, carts, and markets all across Thailand to satisfy every travelling foodie. From noodles, curries, soups, salads, dumplings, roti and sticky rice, you could spend weeks sampling the street snacks of Thai cuisine. Whatever dishes you decide to choose, they will probably be the tastiest and cheapest of your trip.

Of course, a street food cart on the side of the road in Thailand isn't going to follow the same regulations as your favourite restaurant back home. Some visitors wonder whether they should eat street food at all, or if it's a guaranteed way to get sick? Contrary to popular belief, street food in Thailand (and many other countries) is no riskier than restaurants. When you eat on the street, you're more likely to be served fresh food and to get to see it being prepared, both of which go a long way toward keeping you healthy. These tips have will help you enjoy the street food of Thailand and reduce your chances of getting sick.

Watch Your Food Being Handled

One big benefit of street food is that you can often see it being prepared, so take advantage of it! Are there bugs near the ingredients? Did the vendor or cook wipe their nose while preparing food? Did the same person handle both cash and food? Is the meal being served in dirty containers? If the answer is yes, head elsewhere. There are so many food options in Thailand, you won't have any problem finding something else.

Look For Stalls With Long Lines (Especially Locals)

A cart or stall that's unhygienic and regularly makes people sick probably won't be teeming with local customers who will know if certain places are unsafe to eat. If you notice an empty food stall, there may well be a reason it's empty. A dish has been sitting out in the sun for hours, it's much more likely to make you sick. But long lines usually mean quick turnover, the vendor has to keep preparing new food to serve up to all the customers.

Messy Floors & Tables Can Be A Good Thing

Most travellers would assume seeing used napkins, cutlery and empty bowls scattered around a stall was a bad thing. This is not necessarily true and indicates the vendor has potentially just been really busy (perhaps they’ve just had a lunch rush?). Try not to let this factor deter you as there are staff who will come clean up your table as soon as they get the chance.

Eat At Local Meal Times

Of course, there might not be lines anywhere if you're there at the wrong time. Going out for street food in the mid-afternoon may mean getting a dish that's been sitting out since the end of the lunch rush, which is plenty of time for bacteria to form.

Skip Raw Fruits Unless They Can Be Peeled

Fruit with a peel is safe because the skin protects the edible flesh, even in unclean environments. Examples include dragon fruit, mangosteen, rambutan, bananas, mangos, papaya, coconut and pineapple.

Beware Of The Spice Level

Eating spicy food when you're not used to it isn't quite the same as getting food poisoning, but it may leave you feeling less than great. In Thailand, the food can be another dimension of what we consider ‘hot’. Even if you're a spicy food fan at home, we recommend starting with mild or medium spice levels until you have a better idea of what to expect.

Ensure Your Food Is Piping Hot

When it comes to temperature, hotter is better. It means food has been thoroughly cooked, especially meat. A lot of street food is cooked in a pot of boiling water or a vat of sizzling oil, so most dishes are hot enough. But if you're served something that's not fully cooked, ask for it to be cooked a few more minutes, and be especially vigilant if it contains meat.

Use Hand Sanitiser Or Alcohol Wipes Before You Eat

When it comes to street food safety in Thailand, there are a lot of factors, but your own hygiene is one that's easily within your control. It's a reasonable and easy precaution to take when you're eating street food.

Know How To Communicate Allergies

If you have any allergies or other restrictions, eating street food in Thailand is extra complicated. Before you hit the food stalls, look online to see if anything you can't eat appears in everyday dishes. Not every vendor follows the same recipe of course, but it will give you an idea of whether there are dishes you need to be careful with.

Favour Vendors Who Specialise In One Or Two Dishes

In Thailand, you'll encounter lots of street food vendors who sell just a couple different meals. Stick to them! If there are tonnes of things on the menu, you can bet the ingredients won't be fresh for every dish. Stalls that make one or two items generally don’t have ingredients that sit around for too long.

Avoid Old Or Contaminated Condiments

It's possible to order a perfect dish and then ruin it with a bad condiment! Many food carts in Thailand have sauces and other seasonings you can add yourself, but the problem is that they're usually sitting out and may never get refrigerated. If a condiment bottle looks like it never gets used, it's probably old. However, if you notice that every person in front of you is adding something, the bottle is probably safe to use

Start With Small Amounts

Whether you get sick depends partly on the food and partly on your own stomach. If you've never had street food before or you know you have a weak stomach, we would recommend starting with small amounts. Similarly, stick with simpler and more familiar dishes at the beginning, until you get used to it. Another option if you're feeling unsure (or want to learn more) is to try a food tour, which will likely take you to food stalls that have been thoroughly checked for safety.