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Do you travel internationally and, if you do, do you eat street food?

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I got to thinking about this because we're leaving for three weeks in Rio soon and we always have a blast hanging out with locals and eating street food.

If you have the means and the opportunity, do you like to travel internationally and how do you eat and make dining decisions while abroad? I find that we seldom eat at any place that's been recommended. I remember in Paris a few years ago, we were staying on the Left Bank and would walk up to the Blvd. St. Germain in the evening for an apperitif. After that we would just wander the side streets til we found a restaurant where the menu (and price!) and ambiance suited us. We were always happy with our meals. One of our daughters and her husband honeymooned in Thailand a couple of years ago and ate street food constantly, especially some sausages that they particularly love (they call 'em "street meat"). We've eaten chicharones in Peru in a tiny room on the second floor of some building, fried chicken wings from a street vendor in Guatemala. Almost every lunch we eat in Rio is from these ubiquitous bars/cafes that have a blackboard with up to a dozen specials listed. 99.9% of the time we're the only English speakers. My husband didn't like their liver but that was the only failure. But I know from perusing these boards that they're are people here who aren't risk-takers especially. I'm guessing a lot of time it's because of your significant other. But I see people who want to research and research and research some more. Everybody has their own way and none are wrong, but that would spoil alot of the traveling for me. I want lots of "adventures" and the food is a BIG part of that. I'd rather have the occasional dud of a meal than to know in advance where I'm going to eat all the time.

So do you travel internationally and, if so, what's your comfort level? Does it need to be clean? Have a wine list? Have someone there who speaks a little English? How spontaneous do you want to be? Just curious, kids :)

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  1. I'm easy. If it looks good or interesting, it's likely I will put it in my mouth. This attitude can get me in trouble.

    15 Replies
    1. re: Lizard

      Nah. You only go around once, ya know.

      1. re: c oliver

        True, but if you spend three days of your trip doubled over in agony, is it worth that particular go-round?

        I eat street food, but only if it is hot, like boiling hot, looks fresh, and the stall looks clean. In Thailand I would eat just about anywhere, but in India I would be more careful.
        I don't need anyone to speak English, although, if you're traveling most places it's actually pretty hard to find someone who doesn't know at least a few words.

        When I travel it is usually a combination of spontaneous and planned. I want to eat everything that smells good, but I also want to take the recommendations of friends who have traveled as well.

        1. re: lulubelle

          I'm with you on the piping hot -- never had any problems.

          1. re: lulubelle

            Oh, I agree with you. Your brain shouldn't be on holiday just because you are! The chicken wings we ate from the street vendor is Guatemala came straight out of the cauldron of boiling oil.

            I guess i shouldnt be surprised that the non-street-food people haven't commented.

          2. re: c oliver

            Ever been in a third world market in the meat section where flies are as thick as, well, flys? Turns me off when they are all over the meat and I am not squeemish. I figure the street vendors (and probably some restaurants too) buy their meat in the market so decide for yourself. At almost 60, my stomach ain't as cast iron as it used to be. I've been all over the world and am much more careful now than I used to be.

            1. re: missclaudy

              I'm older and bolder than you :) I figure even if the flies have landed on the meat I'm going to be cooking it for a long time that would kill anything period. Or I'm going to grill it and the exterior will get hot enough to kill anything. As others have said here and you touch on, those same meats are likely being prepared in professional kitchens, using local water, etc. If I gotta die, let it be eating :) But this is such a personal issue. I really didn't start this thread for discussion of safety issues but more along the lines of how adventuresome some are and some aren't. No judgements from me AT ALL.

              1. re: c oliver

                I love your attitude and I used to be able to eat anything. I and a friend almost DID die eating in India a few years ago (actually, from injesting what came to be known by my companions as "that poisoned samosa," not even from fly covered meat which I had given up for this particular trip.So watch the fly covered samosas too people !

                1. re: missclaudy

                  Ooh, I samosas SO much; it's terrible that you will always have that bad connection. If I ever get really sick (knock wood), it wouldn't be surprising if it effected my future choices. When in Kenya and Tanzania I did have a very low grade diarrhea for most of the two weeks. Not enough to medicate. Just a reaction to a change in diet as others have said.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    Thanks for the samosa sympathy, there was nothing low grade about how sick we were. I always expect very LGD whan I travel. I have managed to conquer my fear of samosas and scarf them down with pleasure any chance I get !

              2. re: missclaudy

                In China, I was really surprised at the skewers of meat served on the street. They were tiny bits of meat. Any grilling at all and they were cooked through and through. Incredibly delicious. I suppose that even if flies had been on the meat, they would have been ever so crispy.

                1. re: Steve

                  Like these ones street side in China? The guy rolled up on his bike with a char grill on his rear fender, skewers in a basket up front.
                  1 yuan each, never tasted anything as good!

                   
                   
                   
                  1. re: legourmettv

                    Good shots! Yes, exactly. And the price is correct; that's the going rate. Two of us ate dinner for 13 yuan.

                2. re: missclaudy

                  If this were a deal breaker, we never would've eaten meat in Saudi Arabia. We figured that the outside of the meat was going to get hot enough to kill anything. It was the spraying of DDT on the fish at the fish souk that threw us for a loop.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    When I was a kid my dad was stationed at he Naval Air Station in Millington, Tennesee. I was 2 when we moved there and 6 when we left. They used to run a fogging truck that dispensed DDT all over the base every evening about sundown during the summer. We used to run in the fog for fun until we were discovered by a nondrunk parent one night. I'd know that smell anywhere, I think.

                    1. re: EWSflash

                      Wow. And you can write sentences complete with capitalization and punctuation. That's one of those stories that makes me shake my head and chuckle (only a little) at the same time.

            2. Yes. If it smells good, I will eat it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Caralien

                Oh, yeah. How many times have I gone into a restaurant because of some wonderful smell wafting out the door (if they have a door). Then try to figure out what it was by looking at others' plates. And, like Sherri said, a little or a lot of pantomine is a useful thing.

              2. I've eaten "Street Food" for years on travels - Europe, Asia, Mexico, the US to name some destinations. Usually, I'll watch for a line of locals; smiles are a plus. Whether this is a reliable sign of goodness I cannot say but it has served me well.

                In the Phillipines I ate at street stands all the time, I do the same in Mexico and Europe. I cannot honestly remember a time that I became ill. Like Lizard & Caralien, if it looked or smelled good, I was a customer. Much of the time, I had no idea what I was eating and perhaps this non-communication was a good thing. It is a part of the travel adventure. I will also admit to picking fruit and eating it out of hand. This gambit makes my husband uneasy since I don't always know what I'm eating and he fears for my health and his responsibility to bail me out from possible theft charges.

                "So do you travel internationally and, if so, what's your comfort level? Does it need to be clean? Have a wine list? "
                OK, c.oliver, we must be finding very different street food places because I have NEVER seen a wine list at any of the places I've eaten! Never.

                Do I eat in dives and joints? Youbetcha! Some of my favorite meals have been in hole-in-the-wall spots which may or may not have a name. Wine list? Never. Local hooch or beer? Mebbe, and if so, I'm game for a try.

                Fresh fish from a fisherman broiled on a stick at a no-name beach in Southern Mexico remains one of my favorite food memories as do the spicy some-kind-of-nuts in Japan and roasted chestnuts one wintry day in the Frence countryside. What turned out to be chicken gizzards was a hysterical half-hour pantomime with a vendor who spoke not one word of English and my Portuguese did not cover innards. Whole volumes could be written about the glories of Street Food in Asia.

                When I'm home in AZ, I eat at taco trucks every chance I get. On any of these taste adventures, I use common sense. I'm old enough to know that if it doesn't feel right, I shouldn't do it. But straying slightly out of my comfort zone has given me taste delights that I wouldn't trade for all the sanitized food in the world. Have a wonderful trip, filled with good eats.

                18 Replies
                1. re: Sherri

                  You can travel with us anytime!!! The "wine list" question was because I read here occasionally where someone comments that they didn't have a decent wine list. I want to scream "get over it, lady; look at the kind of place; of course, it doesn't have a wine list." ALL the "joints" in Rio where we eat have the most gawd-awful red, probably 5 liter jug of wine covered with dust. I'm really not a beer drinker but have learned to love Brazilian Antartica which is so cheap the nicer places won't even serve it. It's kept in a separate cooler that's colder than where the keep the better beers. It frequently has ice crystals in it. While in Rio, we go to a big farmers' market and they're offering so many samples of fruit, it makes a meal. And this isn't antiseptic, toothpick kinda offering. They have the whole whatever in their hand and slice off a piece with a huge knife and hand it to you. Nothing better. And, like you and others here, I follow my instincts. I didn't drink the water in Peru, Kenya or Tanzania but have everywhere else.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    we heading back to St. Lucia next month--safe in all respects. The best food is from the small local places (we have been trying to get roti here, and it hasn't worked).

                    While in Mexico for a friend's wedding, I will admit that I didn't drink much water, and was likely dehydrated. Rum and cokes, with fresh lime, that I drank a lot of. My friends from Canada and the US got Montezuma's revenge, I didn't. That said, on Paros, I got sick from the water--and learned to brush my teeth with bottled (non-local) water. This was in '92. My guess is that it has improved since then, but I sadly, haven't been back.

                    I'm trying to plan a trip to Cairo soon. We'll get whatever shots are necessary (if that), and will eat and carry some pepto tabs with us (just in case), but I'm really not worried. Food and travel are some of the sensual pleasures I can still afford (travel less, but that's another thing).

                    1. re: Caralien

                      You won't need any shots for Cairo, but it is pretty easy to get sick. I've traveled all over and Cairo is really the only place I've gotten ill other than just minor stomach problems that went away with a little medicine. I was totally wiped out for 24 hours and couldn't move from the bed and my travelmate was wiped out for 48. I had another friend who went the same time with another group and was also sick for 24 hours. All I can say is that I've never talked to so many people who got sick in such a short period of time. This was just a year ago. I used Motilium, but I am not sure that's available here in the US or in Egypt. It helps with a variety of stomach issues. Hopefully you're there for more than 5 days just in case you get sick 1-2 days.

                      1. re: queencru

                        Years ago I ate something I shouldn't have in Cairo; I was very ill for 6 MONTHS. Have no idea what the nasty was (living in Saudi Arabia at the time, with no real doctors), but it was bad.

                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Wow- sorry to hear that. That's definitely a risk though. I worked with a father/daughter who went on a family trip to India and had a similar experience. They all got very ill and the father didn't recover for over a year. I think that was about 10 years ago. I feel really lucky that I've only had to experience 24 hours of that type of sickness.

                          1. re: queencru

                            I think that too many travelers downplay the risks. The chance of getting gravely ill are small, but if you do, you could die. Be smart and choose wisely.

                            1. re: pikawicca

                              I agree with your comments completely - except for the first sentence :) I think that there are too many people out there (and here) who are crying wolf. The "be smart" is the best part.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                What's a bigger chance? Being hit by a bus or from eating something bad?

                                1. re: Jase

                                  I know some places where you can do both.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    I'd probably get hit by the bus because i was too busy eating the food. I can't walk and chew gum at the same time anyway.

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      Rio bus drivers scare the poop out of me but the food never does :)

                            2. re: queencru

                              I have to strongly disagree. Though I had a great time in Cairo, if you plan on eating the local food, be mindful that proper food hygiene does not seem to be done except in very high end restaurants and hotels. (I say this through observation as well as speaking to several locals.)

                            3. re: Caralien

                              Caralien, I am just returning from my third month in Cairo and will be returning in 3 weeks to spend the year there. My advice is to go to any pharmacy in Cairo and get a packet of Antinol. This should cost you 5LE -- about 95 cents -- and it is an intestinal disinfectant and good against whatever might ail you. It is better than Pepto by far, and is so safe it is even give to pregnant women and children. It does its work in the intestines and is not absorbed into the rest of the body.
                              Re street food-- my rule of thumb in Egypt is that if there are a lot of people eating there, the food is fine since the turnover is likely to be rapid. My biggest warning about Cairo, however, is that it is not really a foodie destination. I've posted a lot about various restaurants on the Africa and Middle East board.

                              1. re: roxlet

                                that's great advice. I have an old housemate from Cairo and may actually be pregnant when we visit (next year), so things are okay. My main reason, of course, would be to visit the wonders I have wanted to visit for as long as I could remember! Plus a stuffed pigeon. Bourdain is wrong in stating that people everywhere eat it--they dont. But there, I am convinced, it should be tried.

                              2. re: Caralien

                                Decades ago while in China, locals advised me to brush my teeth with bottled beer (caps had not been opened) it was supposedly common for hotel "bottled" water to be refilled from the hotel tap.

                                1. re: Stephanie Wong

                                  While in Paros, I got sick from the tap water. I had to buy non-Greek bottled water to brush my teeth. This was 1992. It's apparently better, but I haven't had the pleasure to test it again! (seriously, I would love to go back; we've been back to Athens, but not the islands)

                            4. re: Sherri

                              Sherri, you sound like the kind of person I'd like to travel with.

                              1. re: EWSflash

                                I've got first dibs so you have to travel with a group :)

                            5. In Rio my diet mainly consisted of:
                              - acai and papaya juice (suco de mamao) and sandwiches from the sucos bars
                              - cheese on a stick on the beach
                              - lunch from the kilo places
                              - caipirinhas

                              I got sick the first day I arrived in Rio on two separate trips. I suspect it was b/c I was getting used to the water from the ice from all the caipirinhas I was chugging from the beach kiosks.

                              Street food is the way to go for me!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: lochan

                                The problem with the Rio water is it's SO highly chlorinated. I can take it icy cold but for the glass by the bed at night, I used bottled. Warm temp water that strongly smells and tastes of chlorine just doesn't work for me.

                                Our flight gets in around 10am. We'll head straight to the apt., drop our bags and head to the beach for caiparinhas (plural) and some snacks.

                              2. So many jurisdictions stateside prohibit street food vendors under the guise of health codes and zoning ordinances, that I have to put my passport into action to get some. I have had countless great foreign street food experiences.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Veggo

                                  Ain't it the truth? And maybe that has bred too many squeamish Americans who see problems when they're aren't any. I'd forgotten the Rio vendors who set up a little hibachi-like grill just down on the sidewalk usually at night. I'm not always sure what the meat is, but I always like it.

                                2. Being in the midst of planning for an international trip right now, this question struck home. I don't think research and planning is mutually incompatible with spontaneity and street food.

                                  I love eating from carts and taco trucks if it smells and looks good. But when travelling internationally I don't know what's available and I like to sample the popular chow offerings. I do research into restaurants that serve a particular native dish really well but also areas away from touristy main drags where you will have a mom and pop kind of store or street full of stands.

                                  To me, the key is flexibility. Have a list of places in the area you are visiting, but absolutely trust your gut instincts and opportunity. We like to nosh while we wander anyway. So if we happen to stumble upon a place that looks good, who cares if we were planning on another restaurant in a couple of hours. Let's order something from this stand/cart/hole in the wall now. Vacation calories don't count anyway.

                                  What I try to avoid is arriving at a place with absolutely no clue. I don't want to wander down a street for a couple hours getting hungrier by the second because I see absolutely nothing that appeals. Rare but I'm a big believer in a back up plan. The planning and research is the backup plan. But it should never be a rigid, never eat anywhere else kind of plan.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Jase

                                    I think you expressed far better than I what I was thinking. I know someone who once said to me "Can you imagine just walking into a restaurant that you don't know anything about?" (paraphrasing) I spluttered a good bit before responding in the affirmative. I think one's approach to life plays a part also. If someone is hypercritical, then they're probably better off going the safe route. My husband and I are pretty easy to please so we're just fine with a half full glass - well, not of wine :)

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      thank you

                                  2. Funny, I'll be going to visit a friend in Rio soon. I was last there 15 years ago and I don't remember much street food other than the Chiclets offered by beggar children. Now I'll be on the look-out, even though my friend is the type to tell me all about where the meat came from and how she'd never touch that stuff, etc. I'll nod politely before chowing down.

                                    1. I am a person who does some research on the food when travelling anywhere. I like to have a rough idea of potential meals, and I like to have something near wherever I am staying in case we are too tired to look for a great spontaneous meal. But I am just as quick to toss plans out the window if we see or smell something really interesting, or see a large line in front of a street vendor, and I really love eating all sorts of fresh fruit, especially if I have never seen it before. I love hole in the walls, I love trying things I have never eaten, I don't worry too much about what I am eating if it tastes good. It doesn't have to be perfectly clean, but it there are frank broken hygiene rules then I might give it a pass (it has to be frankly egregious though. I am not a hygiene fascist.) I love making gestures and miming ingredients, and understand I might not be getting what I think. I tell you, even if they don't speak a word of my language, they understand a big happy grin and "yum yum" noises just fine. I love going into a place and seeing them preparing food from scratch, like fresh tortillas, home-made breads and dough, home-made sauces.

                                      I do crave variety, and I like to try food from all different echelons of society, from the smallest street vendor to the Royal cuisine/Haute Cuisine. I want whatever passes for fast food in that culture, I also want the classic dishes. I like to see what is sold in gasoline stations and truck stops. I want to see what they stock in their grocery stores and what they sell in their local market. I want to see what they are selling in the vending machines. I want to know how much it costs to eat in that country.

                                      Yeah, I am a wine geek, and I like a good wine list. But it isn't a deal breaker, and I don't insist on having wine with cuisines that just don't suit it. But a good wine list in a culture where wine is integral to the experience, well, why wouldn't you look for it? But if the food is good and the wine list sucks, so be it.

                                      Being invited by a person in the country to enjoy a home-cooked meal is always a privilege, one that I treasure and one that I always appreciate. The food may suck, but I don't care( this almost never happens. there is always something tasty). It is an honour to be invited into someone's home for food. It gives you a totally different perspective on the food of that culture, and it is incredibly intimate. Any time I am invited to share food with a native, I accept with great humility and appreciation.

                                      I am fascinated by all aspects of food in culture. It is one of the most fun parts of traveling for me.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: moh

                                        I love going in grocery stores! In the US a whole aisle can be taken up with cereals - maybe five feet in a Rio grocery. And I love the places that have more kinds of squid and octopus than my grocery has for all their seafood. Or the meat cutter that I have a picture of holding up the entire goat's leg for the photo op. Or the men at El Corte Ingles in Lisbon using fine surgeon's scalpels to slice the jamon iberico.

                                        Someone above made a comment about over-sanitized or some such. Yes. I like seeing the food as close to its original state as I can. Something else we don't see as much of here in the US.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          The first morning we were in Taipei my husband took me to a supermarket in the basement of one of the department stores - a great introduction to a new culture, and a reassurance that some things were similar to what I was used to (I was quite young and had never lived outside of North America before, but was already a maniac about food and cooking). He is still very proud of himself for thinking of this stratagem. Street markets were and are another joy. I always look for and visit markets wherever I go as well.

                                      2. Well, I'm off to Cameroon tomorrow, though it's just for a week (work)--I'll post any street food adventures.

                                        13 Replies
                                        1. re: nofunlatte

                                          How intriguing! I'll be interested to read about your food adventures.

                                          1. re: nofunlatte

                                            Yes, please do post on this, nofunlatte!

                                            1. re: cimui

                                              Well, I was kept pretty busy, so there wasn't much chance to wander around for street food. I did have some boiled peanuts and MARVELOUS papaya from a vendor in Yaounde, as well as roasted plantain and some mystery fruit (gotta start a thread to see if anyone can identify it) at a market somewhere between Bafoussam and Yaounde. I did have some fabulous non-street food, though, and I'll post about that later on in the week.

                                              That said, I actually did get sick--I (quite suddenly) fell ill while in line to check in for my flight to Switzerland. I went from feeling fine to being unconscious on the floor of the airport in literally 5 minutes. And within another 20-30 minutes (and a bottle of Coca Cola), I felt pretty normal again. I suspect some type of food poisoning (my stomach had been slightly rumbly that day), and I did have this once before (in the States), complete with sudden onset, passing out and rapid recovery. Now I'm recovering from a caffeine withdrawal headache (almost gone!)--I drink only decaf, except on the days I go on a long run (once a week), but there wasn't any decaf available to me in Cameroon. Given that I was on sleep deficit, I thought I'd have the caffeinated variety of coffee. It was fabulous (and it was Cameroonian)--rich, smooth, delicious, sweetened with a single cube of brown sugar, except the day I followed my host's lead and sweetened it with a spoonful of fantastic honey from her village. Anyway, a week of high-test coffee was long enough to re-addict me to caffeine and now I am paying the price.

                                              1. re: nofunlatte

                                                I'm not a doctor but I've never heard of a food-borne illness that causes the symptoms you described. And that it's happened twice and that a massive jolt of sugar made you better is even more suspect. I sincerely hope that you told you doctor about this and that s/he ran at least some basic lab tests. Loss of consciousness isn't something to fool around with

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  I just got back early Sunday morning. Did call the doctor and left a message this afternoon, but he hasn't called back (it was late when I left the message). The first time it happened was about 8-10 years ago. Same thing--feel fine, feel nauseous, pass out, come to, go to bathroom with the runs that time, feel much better, lecture to 300 undergraduates 90 minutes later. That time I had eaten (for the first and last time) at a Fuddruckers (not my choice, but my dining companions choices). Later on, I read that this particular restaurant was associated with a food poisoning outbreak. Oddly, that time I ordered a burger, medium-rare, and had an odd premonition that I really should change the order to medium.

                                                  I do appreciate your concern, really. Nice to have CH'ers care! I'm fine though and I'll probably hear from the doctor tomorrow.

                                                  1. re: nofunlatte

                                                    Glad you're handling this aggressively.

                                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                                      I've had similar problems in the past, but I don't think they were related to food. I'll be feeling fine one minute and then start to get cramped up the next and will have to go sit with my head between my legs so I won't pass out. Most of the time I have stomach problems like that, it's either stress related or lactose intolerance.

                                                    2. re: c oliver

                                                      I agree, the unconsciousness doesn't sound like a typical food-borne illness, but maybe undiagnosed diabetes, for one, please see a doc. Sorry, i'M watching this from thetop down, so I expect you've gotten a lot of advice, but the most important one is that you need to see a doctor or nurse practitioner. Now.

                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                        I just had the full gamut of blood tests about 7-8 weeks ago and with the exception of Vit. D, all is not just fine, but very good (including blood sugar). I have passed out exactly four times in my life (and I"m 49, so this isn't a regular thing) and the two "recent" times have both been associated with mega-sleep deficit. I do think it's food-related because of the stomach rumbling that preceded everything. But the doc's been notified and I've managed to get a couple of decent cardio workouts since my return, without problems.

                                                        1. re: nofunlatte

                                                          Strangely enough I get the stomach cramps when I get overheated in the shower. It definitely has nothing to do with anything I ate, but the cramps are usually a sign that I'm about to get light headed.

                                                          1. re: nofunlatte

                                                            Again, not a doctor, but...

                                                            The stomach rumbling may be an adrenal-vagal thing. Fight or flight, and all. The body, um, "lightening up" in anticipation of a perceived stressful event.

                                                      2. re: nofunlatte

                                                        Wow, what a cool experience (minus the passing out in the airport bit)! I hope it's nothing serious... If it were me, I'd've probably swooned from joy at getting caffeine in my system, again. :)

                                                        1. re: cimui

                                                          cimui, that coffee was like friggin' nectar--mmmmm!

                                                  2. Yes! Have eaten street food on six continents. It was all delicious and never gave me any problems stomach-wise. The only one I never would've tried was the Balut (sp) in the Philippines.

                                                    24 Replies
                                                    1. re: bayoucook

                                                      Re balut, I know various people fromthe Philippines who won't eat it either. But with enough alcohol in his system, Sam's eaten it!

                                                      I wasn't really thinking along the lines of getting sick from "foreign" food but rather that there are people who simply aren't adventuresome eaters especially when off their home court. So when you take them abroad, they get even more rigid. My MIL worked as a travel agent for 40 years and has visited more places than probably 99% of the world population. BUT she stayed in 5-star hotels and ate American food whenever she could or at least sanitized (I love that word) regional food. She is appalled at the places we stay (going down the hall to the bathroom is NOT her idea of a good time!) and the things we eat. I have to admit that I take some pleasure from torturing her with the goriest descriptions :)

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Poor MIL - she might as well stay home. We travel to experience the lifestyle of the natives, we are not finicky or germ-phobic at all. If it looks good, we eat it! I'll have to ask Sam about that balut (it is Sam F., right?).

                                                        1. re: bayoucook

                                                          Yep, Sam F. With a high enough blood alcohol level and Sam at my side,I'd probably eat anything, wouldn't you?

                                                          I'll choose food over churches or museums any day :)

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            Boy, did you hit it on the spot. Just got back from Italy and don't care to see another church for a few months. I hope Sam will comment on that balut on this post. Fun post.

                                                            1. re: bayoucook

                                                              Sam has been silent for awhile so maybe he's too busy saving the world!

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                I'm not Sam, c.oliver, but I have eaten a balut. I was a lot younger, stone cold sober , living in the Phillipines and curious more than anything else. It tasted like one would expect an almost-rotten egg to taste. "One per lifetime" is my balut motto and "No, thank you" is my answer to the offer of another one. Durian was smellier but much better tasting. FYI - neither are foods that I've repeated. There are too many other good things to eat that I enjoy.

                                                                1. re: Sherri

                                                                  I haven't had Durian - yet. I'd want someone to tell me "oh, yes, this is a good tasting one" :)

                                                                  1. re: Sherri

                                                                    Wow Sherri, you were much braver than I was. I was young and curious, too, but just could.not.do.it. I didn't drink then; maybe that would've helped?

                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                            I think there are a variety of reasons for that, and it's not just that people are disinterested in foreign food. Some people just have more sensitive stomachs than others and it's not worth being miserable on a trip because you've veered from your diet. I know that when I eat out several days in a row, I can have serious stomach problems- be it in my hometown or abroad. I'm still adventurous to an extent when I travel, but I do have to be careful about what and how much I eat to avoid getting sick. I think some people feel like if they stick to American food, they know what's in it and can maintain a fairly healthy digestive system.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              I grew up in the Philippines and ate balut growing up. Never realized it was that big of a deal. Of course I haven't had any since I left the P.I.

                                                              Still remember Sam defending me in a post when someone pretty much called me a liar and said no one ever eats balut.

                                                              1. re: Jase

                                                                I know they ate them. I saw them buy from the vendors and eat them right there.
                                                                One reason I never tried one!

                                                              2. re: c oliver

                                                                Balut is actually very good. It has no sulferioius taste and is good even with your first beer of the day.

                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                  Just how "crunchy" is it? How early can we have that beer? Is it still good with the fourth beer of the day???

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    From what my friend from Manila tells me, it's best with the dozenth or so beer of the evening!

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Balut is made up of many "parts" starting with a liquid to be slurped, followed by different textures of the embryo, and finishing with a hard rubbery white bit at the other end. Balut is not a "trick" food; and we had them regularly along with BBQ chicken feet, both served as pulutan (snacks) with beers.

                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                        I know it's not a "trick" food but I also rarely have met someone from the Philippines who eats it. When I ask if they do, they generally laugh. I am curious though if it's far enough along in the maturation (?) process that there are actually boney pieces in it. As I wrote here or somewhere, with you by my side, I'd eat anything. No smoke blowing, just the facts, sir :)

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          We worked with lots of filipinos over the 14 years I was based there. I don't kinow of anyone who didn't eat balut. Of course, we were not with any Manila elites but with our research colleagues and assistants. We always got 18 day balut - quite developed, but no boney bits - just some cartelagenous hints.

                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                            Sam, I in no way meant to offend anyone. Hey, I'm from Georgia where we eat slimey okra (actually have that tonight) and other things that have an ew-factor for others. I think 20 years ago I knew a "Manila-elite" couple but not since then. I've gotten a kick out of asking filipinos about balut since I learned about it. Perhaps they felt they wouldn't be accepted if they admitted to it. But anyway, NEVER mean ANY offense to ANY food choices - even SPAM (yoohoo, P-keg, I'm talking to you now.)

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              You could never offend me in a million years even if you tried. Stay tuned - I'm going to write a street food reply for this thread. Maybe tomorrow. Filipinos are sometimes sensitive about their food and other cultural things many of us think nothing about.

                                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                I have seen balut in a Filipino market in No. Virginia.

                                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                                  How is it done? Balut in the Philippines requires taking the embryonic egg from under the hen, steaming it, and serving - all in a fairly short time.

                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                    Sam, I shall forever be grateful to you for defending me against a long time respected poster who basically called me a liar when I claimed that balut was very popular in the philippines and that my relatives and I grew up eating it regurlarly. Apparently I don't have enough street cred.

                                                                                    But yum, I remember balut being a treat when as a kid, I'd visit relatives in Baguio. A cold night of walking around and stopping the vendors carrying the eggs in a warm basket. Crack one open, slurp down the liquid. Open up the little triangle packet of salt given with each egg, gently salt and eat the rest like a hard boiled egg. As my uncle would say, good for a growing boy.

                                                                                    1. re: Jase

                                                                                      I share your experiences. growing up, I'd have balut almost weekly! My grandfather ("Lolo") would regularly call me over after I got home from school and we would each down a balut for our late afternoon snack. Of course, he'd take his with a San Miguel. Great memories; he told me balut would make me into a tall basketball star....that was an easy sucker sell to a 9 y.o. for sure!

                                                                                  2. re: Steve

                                                                                    I saw a lot of the Vietnamese version while in Ho Chi Minh. Couldn't bring myself to try it though!

                                                                2. from my mid-20s until my early 40's i was on the road all the time. and i ate street food all the time. I'm not going to say i never ever got sick, but rarely, compared to how much i ate.

                                                                  i'm still here, yo.

                                                                  1. i have three rules for street food in the US and abroad:

                                                                    1. i need to see an adequate heating source.
                                                                    2. i need to see a few other people eating it.
                                                                    3. it needs to look cooked and tasty.

                                                                    yum ensues. . . usually.

                                                                    1. I definitely eat street food when I travel internationally, the taco trucks in Oakland are awesome and I wish I had a chance for another go at them.

                                                                      In a totally alien city, I'll usually spend day 1 eating safe, recommended places to get a baseline. Also buys me time to scout around and look for interesting places to try (i.e. be a chowhound), from which I'll make a list and try to get organised around the list - perhaps trying to match sights with the restaurant I plan to eat at. I'll minimise the amount of theoretical pre-trip research (e.g. reading reviews) so that I'll have more fun with practical on-site research (i.e. eating and tasting the food). Reduces the amount of bias and increases the chance of finding something new.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: limster

                                                                        That was what we did in Paris. We walked around checking out the menus and ambiance and that was our research. We wound up having dinners for two with wine for around $40 --- granted that was when the US$ was prime tenderloin.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          We do that, too. We were on a Globus tour this time and had very little time (or transportation) to seek out restaurants. Only five dinners were not included. Averaged around 63 Euros to the dollar and found some very good meals with wine for around 50.-60.00 for the two of us. Meals were cheaper in the small Tuscan and Umbrian towns, of course.

                                                                      2. I am a vegetarian, so I don't eat meaty street food, restaurant food or home food. But I'll occasionally eat street food when I'm traveling.

                                                                        I used to live in Torino (Italy), and there definitely isn't a street food culture there. However, if there was a festival going on I would sample whatever the vendors were offering. There were occasionally nice wine festivals that would pop up in a plaza I happened to be walking through, and I would certainly have a glass (or eight). For that kind of on-the-go food I would grab a slice of "pizza" from a bakery or street market (always served room temperature on a base of foccacia). My other travels in Western Europe were similar.

                                                                        More recently I spent half a year living in Guadalajara, Mexico. After a while I succumbed to the nieve cart outside my workplace (nieve = shaved ice covered in sweet syrup) and regularly ate nieves, which I'm sure were not made with purified ice. Never got sick. There wasn't a lot of street food in my neighbourhood, with the exception of a cart selling "Oaxacan Specialities" that were primarily intended for home consumption. When I traveled I would eat enchiladas mineras, churros and elote (corn, grilled on a stick or boiled and served in a plastic cup) from street vendors.

                                                                        I'm hoping to go to Romania and Moldova next year- anyone think there will be more of a street food culture there?

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                          Oh... good point, vegetarian eating. I generally stay away from meat, even cooked meat, in places of questionable sanitariness. I don't think I've had much by way of street meats in India, for instance (partly because vegetarian food there is actually far better in most instances), although I did have plenty of foods that contained meat from street vendors in Chinese cities more recently. [For vegetables, you just want to make sure they've been cooked long enough for the heat to kill any harmful microbes that may've been in the water used to wash the veggies.]

                                                                          Gutsy move wrt the nieve eating, Jetgirly. I might've succummed, too, if I saw it every day in the heat, against my better judgment.

                                                                          1. re: Jetgirly

                                                                            Romania is a meat lovin' country. I fear you may have trouble finding vegetarian options at non-street food restaurants. Mamaliga (polenta) is very common, but often served topped with meat and cheese. "Salad" options are usually some form of pickled vegetables served cold, though they are very good, or tomato-cucumber salad. I was craving a big American salad by the time we got home.

                                                                            That being said, as far as street food goes, you'll find lots of pastry type things. You must try Kurtoskalacs (Hungarian "chimney cake") if you're in Transylvania. Make sure you get one that is fresh off the grill. I often joke with my in-laws that we'll pay for them to send us one via FedEx overnight.

                                                                            The markets are also usually amazing. The fruit is gorgeous - especially watermelon, strawberries and cherries. You can usually find a cheese shop or two in every market with all kinds of fresh cheeses. We introduced my in-laws to a sort of Insalata Caprese except we used whatever fresh cheese that was "mozzerella-like" at the market, and we couldn't find olive oil, so we used Sunflower oil (ubiquitous in Romania). You'll also find wonderful fresh-baked breads and all kinds of cakes and pastries.

                                                                          2. Absolutely. I've eaten copious amounts of street food in various parts of India, China and several other countries in Asia, eastern Europe, S. and Latin America, northern Africa and a lot of western Europe. I've never gotten sick from the food (though I did catch an ass-kicking case of the flu in Madras / Chennai, once). I usually don't eat anything raw and do use common sense--i.e. if you see the vendor reusing the same plate that a previous customer used without washing, don't eat there. Otherwise anything is fair game.

                                                                            1. The only serious food poisoning I've ever had has been from upscale restaurants--not street food. (The worst from a famous restaurant in New Orleans; almost required hospitalization.) Street vendors have never been a problem.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Leper

                                                                                Okay, you're traveling with us also :)

                                                                              2. You are very, very brave. I've eaten street food in Thailand (of course!), Indonesia (durian, among other things), Papua New Guinea (but not the smoked bat), Cambodia, Myanmar, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico (natch) . . . but I've never dared the fried chicken in Guatemala. On the street in Panajachel, right? I can't tell you how often I've been tempted, but my Guatemalan friends tell me I'd be crazy to tempt fate by doing so. Your post settles it. I'll be there in a few weeks. If you lived to tell the tale, I'm willing to take the chance.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                  I'm counting on you to report back, JN. Now remember I watched those wings coming straight out of the boiling cauldron of oil so I knew nothing could have lived through that. and we gave the bones to a skinny mongrel dog. Figured he got far worse than that. Have a great trip

                                                                                2. I've eaten on the street in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Thailand, Mexico, Cuba and most of the Carib islands...
                                                                                  Spent six months travelling China and India by rail, eating almost exclusively out on the pavement. No English was spoken in the majority of these locations, and we did a lot of pointing. Often we had no clue really what we were eating.

                                                                                  I've been sick once from food on the road, but it was something that I ate at a high end hotel restaurant. Go figure.

                                                                                  G.

                                                                                  19 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: legourmettv

                                                                                    "I'll have what they're having" is a great strategy. Pointing at random menu items works too. I used my Chowhound Passport several times on a recent trip. Once it actually worked, I believe. I don't think the restaurant knew what I wanted (even hand signals failed), but I showed the Passport to another customer who was able to help.

                                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                                      Chowhound Passport? Please elaborate. =)

                                                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                                                        Chowhound used to sell (maybe still does?) T-shirts and a few other items. One of them was a Chowhound Passport with a phrase in English translated into seven or so different languages. The phrase is something like: I don't want the tourist stuff, give me the authentic food. I do not think the translations are literal. My friend said the Chinese version translates as: I may have a Western face, but I have a Chinese stomach. Or something to that effect.

                                                                                        Most of the time I showed it to folks, I can't really be sure it got me anywhere. But in one case, in a Tibetan area, even pointing "I'll have what they're having" produced nothing but confusion. So when I took out my card and tried to show the server, another customer took an interest (I got the impression I was the only Westerner to ever step foot in this place) and after reading the card, explained what I was there for, and that they shouldn't be shy to serve me. Of, course, I couldn't be sure, but I did get what I was after.

                                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                                          Sweet. I want one of those. Maybe I could use it in London so people stop serving me half, instead of full, pints of beer without even asking whether I want the bigger glass. :)

                                                                                          1. re: cimui

                                                                                            The Chowhound Passport is great, part of a set of goods sold on the pre-CNET site. It's a card that slides through a little folder so you can isolate the language you want in a little window. I still carry mine in my wallet, though I confess I've never actually used it!

                                                                                            Here's a description: http://articles.latimes.com/2002/apr/...

                                                                                            1. re: cimui

                                                                                              Me, too. Why would anyone travel to a new culture and not deeply experience it? *where* can we get one!?

                                                                                              1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                Why would anyone travel to a new culture and not deeply experience it?

                                                                                                Well, it depends on why you are traveling. I have some dear friends who are avid athletes and when they travel to places like Thailand they eat the blandest, most boring food ever. They are there to cycle and climb and kayak, and anything that might put a halt to that is out of the question. (and if you have ever been struck down by serious intestinal issues, you know that bad street food can seriously curtail a vacation) Not everyone is a chow hound. Some people are adventure hounds

                                                                                                1. re: lulubelle

                                                                                                  True enough. But this chowhound would cry if I went to Thailand and didn't eat the local foods. Different strokes...

                                                                                                  1. re: bayoucook

                                                                                                    oh, I'm with you. But I haven't been on a bike in years. :-)

                                                                                                  2. re: lulubelle

                                                                                                    Yes, but on Chowhound we should dispel some misconceptions about street food. It seems perfectly safe to me if you are smart about, and in fact safer than eating where you do not see the food prepped in front of you. As I said in a previous post, people can feel off guard in their hotel, that somehow people are not putting their fingers in the food, etc. I asked for a fresh fry bread on the street even though the vendor already had some fried up. I felt far safer than anywhere I don't see the food being cooked. I often go kayaking, hiking, and horseback riding on vacation. I certainly don't want to disrupt my trip. The people who are outright avoiding street food because of health reasons are doing so out of ignorance. If indeed they are interested at all in eating some of the best food around.

                                                                                                    1. re: Steve

                                                                                                      The people who are outright avoiding street food because of health reasons are doing so out of ignorance.

                                                                                                      in some cases certainly, however, to each his own, and these particular friends pretty much travel with granola bars and eat at the McDs in BKK. They are not food people, which was my point, not all of us travel for the food.

                                                                                                    2. re: lulubelle

                                                                                                      Our older daughter and her husband spent a month in Thailand climbing --- and eating "street meat." And loving it.

                                                                                                      There seem to be as many or more people on this thread who've gotten sick when NOT eating street food.

                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                        I have eaten all over Thailand, and India, and Nepal, and various other places and never been terribly ill, however, I also have a friend who has been hosptialized twice for street food related illnesses, once in Nepal, once in India, so it does happen.

                                                                                                        1. re: lulubelle

                                                                                                          The thing about eating is -and please correct me if I'm wrong- you have to do it. There is no choice. So aside from sticking to granola bars brought from home, it still is a misconception that street food is more problematic than eating at your hotel. I am not advocating lack of caution, but for those of you reading this that are unsure, I can tell you that you can be cautious AND eat street food that is amazing and different than what you are likely to find in a restaurant. Outright fear of street food just doesn't make any sense unless you are planning on bringing all your food with you. People who are adamantly sticking to Mcdonald's are not reading this thread.

                                                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                                                            My original reply was to someone who questioned why people would travel and not avail themselves of the local cuisine. Obviously my granola bar-carrying friends are not reading this thread. My point was simply that not everyone travels with the intention of eating. Some people travel for other purposes.

                                                                                                            As far as I am concerned, you are preaching to the choir, I've eaten street food all over the world.

                                                                                                            1. re: lulubelle

                                                                                                              I understand you are a tried and true Chowhound. But even the adventurous need reinforcement that they shouldn't rule out street food. Alhough it's always a good idea to watch how the food is being prepared and handled before ordering.

                                                                                                              And don't avoid lines. The locals usually know what's good and are willing to wait for it!

                                                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                Look at where I live. Trust me, I know all about the importance of sanitation.

                                                                                                            2. re: Steve

                                                                                                              "...it still is a misconception that street food is more problematic than eating at your hotel."

                                                                                                              Exactly. Most people *assume* they know where they ate the food that made them ill, but many foodborne illnesses takes hours or even days to cause symptoms, so you might be pinning the blame on the wrong meal. You might think you got Hepatitis from street food, but there's no way to know for sure, since you get Hepatitis from an infected person handling the food, not the way the food is prepared.

                                                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                My brother used to deal with hotel kitchens around the world when he did charter food service for a major Unnamed Air Line. As far as he's concerned you're better off with street food. The street food vendors have to do pretty much everything where you an see it, restos and hotels can get away with anything.

                                                                                            2. Having experienced the "mummy tummy" in Egypt in spite of staying away from street food, I travel to new countries open minded but generally only eating non-street food. The potential risk is simply not worth it to me. I still feel like I get a good sense of a country's food without eating street food. For ex, I live in NYC. I really do not feel that any visitor to NYC is missing "real NYC food" if they never have a dirty water dog or stale NY pretzel. Granted, the street food in other nations is generally a lot better than what NYC has, but I do not feel that a region's cuisine can only be had by street food.

                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                                                Nope, but I wouldn't want to miss the taco trucks or the person on the corner selling tamales. I'm definitely not saying there's a right or wrong Just different comfort levels for different people. I also have learned to my chagrin that i really, REALLY don't want to travel with someone who has a strongly divergent approach to eating than I do.

                                                                                                1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                                                  On a trip to China, the street food seemed very safe to me. If you wanted, you could choose only items that are grilled/cooked to order right in front of you, and nobody touches the food before they give it to you. In fact, I felt safer than at your average restaurant.

                                                                                                  1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                                                    i could not agree less. street food is what most of the people eat, other than in their homes, in most countries.

                                                                                                    and a visitor is missing an essential piece of NYC cuisine if they ignore the cart dog

                                                                                                    one eater's opinion

                                                                                                    1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                                                      I got terrible food poisoning from shellfish in Morocco (bought and cooked from an open-air stall on the harbour in Essaouira), but it hasn't put me off street food at all! There are limits though - a friend is currently in hospital with salmonella after she ate a chicken sausage at the airport in Colombo. I probably wouldn't have risked that in the first place - especially for a chicken sausage (bleugh).

                                                                                                      1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                                                                        NYC, what about all the halal food carts? Last trip to NYC, I had to try the much talked about chicken and rice cart on 53rd and 6th which only comes out at night. I dragged my poor wife out at 1 a.m. with temps in the teens by the time you figured in wind chill. It was blowing hard that Feb night. We walked all the way from 26th and 5th even though I offered to get us a cab. But she wanted to see the city that time of the year in that kind of weather. Yeah, we're stupid tourists.

                                                                                                        Anyway, it was a long cold walk, the food was good and it makes a heck of a good story to our friends. NYC street food was worth it to me.

                                                                                                        1. re: Jase

                                                                                                          I SO agree with you. NYC is like a bunch of great countries all rolled up together. I love it all including dogs Isn't it supposed to be about the journey? As the OP, i'm "taking names' for traveling companions :)

                                                                                                          1. re: Jase

                                                                                                            I discovered that cart while staying at that Hilton right nearby for a conference. Ever since, I try to drag whomever I'm with to that cart at least once, regardless of where we're staying.

                                                                                                            Street food is a definite yes--anywhere. Not much more risky, imo, than any other food if you're paying attention and using common sense. Look at all the food-borne illness caused by "safe" packaged food--beef, poultry, spinach--that we buy in our sterile and pristine supermarkets.

                                                                                                            When I was 17 and on a trip to DC, I encountered intoxicating unfamiliar aromas as I walked by a street festival. I followed my nose and ended up buying something on a stick from an Indian vendor. I don't even know what it was, but it was a tasty morsel indeed, and after finishing it, I went back for a little plastic bowl of biryani. Thus began my love affair with Indian food, my attraction to any food that seemed "exotic," my determined seeking out of food carts, booths, stalls, dark little bars reputed to have great nibbles.

                                                                                                        2. A trip isn't complete without street food. I try to be slightly cautious, like many have said, and avoid peeled fruit and uncooked veggies or meat that looks like it's been left out for awhile, but otherwise if it looks good I eat it.

                                                                                                          1. I found a place Dubai that had these grilled flatbreads rolled around grilled veggies, cheese and chicken. There were other menu options besides chicken but the guy behind the counter couldn't tell me what kind of meat it was. When faced with the choices of chicken or mystery meat, I chose chicken.

                                                                                                            It was very good though.

                                                                                                            1. I love trying new foods and definitely want an "authentic" experience....but... I got Hepatitis from a street stand and I can tell you that cured me of eating street foods in most places. I will not eat street food in any place where the tap water is not safe or if you need to get shots to go there.

                                                                                                              I get the impression that some people think you're not a true "Chowhound" or food -lover, or adventurous eater if you don't eat street food...or people think they are superior or adventurous because they do. I think it really boils down to a person's experiences (having fallen severely ill in the past perhaps, or works in public health or infectious diseases) and also their own health. I am *extremely* cautious now that I am pregnant- I won't eat food at a potluck because I don't' know how it was prepared, how long it was sitting out on the picnic table, etc. Other people with immune system issues are probably also more cautious and may not care to necessarily disclose that information.

                                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: QSheba

                                                                                                                So if you do travel to a country for which you get shots, what do you eat? Because, quite frankly, when I see street food being prepared in front of my own eyes, I can see how it is being handled. No walls.

                                                                                                                Much that is available on the streets is safer (and certainly better tasting!) than your average pot luck. I just don't want to perpetuate the myth that some of us on Chowhound are health-averse risk-takers with iron stomachs.

                                                                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                  In addition, dishes are washed and food is prepared in restaurants in those countries using tap water, by people who live there and are therefore among the vectors for diseases you're being immunized against, just like street food.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                    Thank you, Madam-Explains-It-So-Well :) I have no false pride. i love it when people can articulate thoughts better than I.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                      Except that at the street stands

                                                                                                                      1) There aren't facilities for frequent handwashing/ dishwashing, hot water (even if not purified bottled water) with soap is still effective at killing microorganisms- when handwashing or dishwashing compared to no handwashing period.

                                                                                                                      2) Lack of reliable cooling/heating. Foods are more likely to be at a temperature that encourages microorganism growth compared to a restaurant with refrigerator facilities.

                                                                                                                      My mom's family is from Mexico (and still lives there) and while they wash their dishes with tap water, they do not drink tap water and they do not eat street food. Something like hepatitis A is spread by fecal contamination- not tap water- more likely spread from a cart where the person preparing the food is also the one handling the money and interacting with lots of people and not washing hands. I also know where I got it because we were staying at an all-inclusive hotel and I had one meal that was different from the rest of my family- I was the only one to get Hep A- not just a strange coincidence. Yes I know you can get sick at restaurants and hotels, etc., but there's a reason people are told to avoid street food. If my own family that lives in Mexico won't eat the street food, I'm not going to either, esp. after getting Hepatitis.

                                                                                                                      1. re: QSheba

                                                                                                                        When somebody takes a skewer of food and plunges it into boiling hot oil for five minutes and then wraps a napkin around the stick to hand to you, I have no qualms with eating it. There is no magic barrier that keeps disease away from a restaurant or hotel where you can't see the food cooked in front of you. I doubt if all street food is safe, but when you see safe practices being used, I find any hard and fast rule about avoiding street food counterproductive.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                          There's a lot of street food that is not plunged in hot oil and handed to you with a napkin. Tacos, sandwiches, fruit and vegetable stands....I'm not saying that food from restaurants and hotels does not pose a risk, what I'm saying is, there is a reason why people are told to avoid it. Do you dispute the fact that dangerous holding temperature, lack of hand washing, and money handling increase the risk of food-borne illness?

                                                                                                                          1. re: QSheba

                                                                                                                            I'm REAL sure that Steve will speak up but as OP, can I pipe up also?!? I'm talking in countries other than the US where there may frequently be NO resto inspections so any of the things you mention above can/will occur just as frequently with street food as in a resto. I eat fruit straight from the hands of the guys selling it at the market. They take their knife and cut me off a big taste. Haven't had a whisper of a problem. Only that US peanut butter that was contaminated with salmonella. Veggo got it also.

                                                                                                                            1. re: QSheba

                                                                                                                              I am not condoning eating ALL street food. I have heard some horror stories. I think it's smart to be cautious. But I would encourage anyone reading this to investigate the street food when they travel and not to assume it's dirty, disgusting and risk-taking. I have seen the folks out on the streets being extraordinarily careful with their food items and handling. Eating out in the streets is a way of life in some places, and it's a delicious way to experience an important part of another culture. Personally, I'd just as soon see my food being handled. For me, it means even less risk taking.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                                Eating pasta or pizza in the Caribbean can be very very risky when it comes to flavour, but at least it's not what the locals outside of the resort compounds are eating!

                                                                                                                                In all seriousness, if you're worried about some forms of illnesses, visit your doctor and get the Hepatitis (or other) vaccines. The cost to prevent these illnesses will be worth it if it allows you to eat, drink, and be merry while eating.

                                                                                                                  2. Got as sick as humanly possible after eating in the fanciest restaurant in Cusco, Peru (had been surviving on street food for 2 months and was ill a few times from that too.) When in India a few years ago, I ate a delicious samosa from the hermetic Marriot kiosk in the New Delhi airport and was so sick I had to take cipro (ALWAYS travel with cipro people, it works like a charm!!!!!) and couldn't eat anything for a few days. Being sick on the road is no fun,but not eating street food anymore makes me cry when I see a fantastic food cart as my family drags me away sobbing.

                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: missclaudy

                                                                                                                      Good to know. The travel clinic gave me a cipro prescription, which I had filled for a nominal charge ($7.99). That's cheap insurance!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                        Ruth, please read up on cipro, in what cases to take it and (rare) potential side affects. It is a really strong drug. It saved my trip to India, I just want you to be informed .Some people can't take it. I've read it's a good idea to flood your body with probiotics after cipro. Have a great trip !

                                                                                                                        1. re: missclaudy

                                                                                                                          Thanks for the warning. The cipro is just in case of emergency, if other milder treatments fail. I'm not big on taking antibiotics, generally. I think I've taken them once in the last 35 years (an infected root canal). I've never gotten sick when I've traveled, even when other people with me did. I think I have one of those cast-iron stomachs, but unfortunately a little less so as I've gotten older. It would just be stupid to not have the cipro if I was so sick I needed it. If, knock-on-wood, I take it, I'll remember to hit the yogurt afterwards!

                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                            Have you explored the wonders of grapefruit seed extract? Many inveterate travelers I know swear it keeps their tummys heathy while traveling. It's good to start a little before you leave. http://www.appliedhealth.com/AHS-Jour... you leave.

                                                                                                                            1. re: missclaudy

                                                                                                                              The site didn't work for me, but this sounds very interesting. I'll try to look into it.

                                                                                                                              1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                                                                                That sight doesn't work now,sorry, just google" benefits of grapefruit seed extract."

                                                                                                                                1. re: missclaudy

                                                                                                                                  Yes I did and found it very helpful, thank you! Definitely going to pick some up before another trip.

                                                                                                                    2. I'd say I have a good stomach but my parents always made sure we didn't eat local or street foods in countries we lived in. They always got sick when they ate something, and were afraid of the water or hygienic practices of people cooking as well as stalls and carts.

                                                                                                                      I've learnt to be cautious, with breads and fishes that were roasted on a grill or in a hot oven I was usually ok, but I avoided a lot of things including salads. Maybe I'm just paranoid.
                                                                                                                      If I'm invited to people's homes I examine the environment before deciding what to eat.

                                                                                                                      On the flip side I've eaten at resorts and high end restaurants and got sick! Crackers, some re-hydration fluid and tums are always essentials I carry along.
                                                                                                                      Getting sick is the worst part of traveling and it's never worth it no matter how good the food is.

                                                                                                                      1. getting sick, if you are in a place long term, im talking mildly sick mind you, is how the body develops the antibodies needed to not get sick.
                                                                                                                        that said i've gotten sick from cheese in kashmir, from chicken in the casablanca train station, i think some birds nest/shark fin soup near the thai malaysian border, bad water in the portuguese cork forests, and few other minor times in india etc.

                                                                                                                        none of it will stop me from trying again.

                                                                                                                        1. I've eaten off "typhoid trolleys" in Bali, Thailand, Egypt, Greece and more. Never got sick.

                                                                                                                          But my theory on that, is that I worked as a nurse in a nursing home for years and years.. so I developed a tolerance, by being exposed to other people's umm... E Coli, shall we say.

                                                                                                                          I am about to move to Lae, PNG, where my plan is to try smoked fruit bat and buy LIVE mud crabs from the market for nomming on!

                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: purple goddess

                                                                                                                            Can we paint me green and call me a jealous frog? You lead such a cool life Purple Goddess... I guess this is to make up for all the years of E coli....

                                                                                                                            Good to see you on the boards again! Have a safe move.

                                                                                                                            1. re: moh

                                                                                                                              The bell will mourn in Melbourne.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                Ah, yes, veggo-licious, but the lights of Lae (not to mention the street hawkers and their stalls) will be verily aquiver with excitement!

                                                                                                                          2. I eat almost nothing but street food when I travel.

                                                                                                                            1. In about 1971 I went to Acapulco- a boyfriend's dad was building a hotel there- and I made a bad choice and got a walloping case of turista (my first-ever hangover, I was 18, needed cream of shroon soup the next day). I talked to the wives of the US construction crew, and they were taking Entero Vioformo by the handful, but when they got back to the US they found out that the FDA had banned enterovioformo in the USA (aka Entero-Vioform) due to the fact that it caused sterile gut syndrome (not a good thing for us humans) and the women had been advised to eat tons of yogurt, and in the early '70s there weren't many reliable sources for live-culture probiotics.
                                                                                                                              I did use it in the mid-1980s, when I got sick in La Paz (Mexico) and found Entero Vioformo in the farmacia, near the injectible Ampicillin (for the hookers, I guess)

                                                                                                                              1. Yes, and no. Not even locally, because of food safety issues which to me are the better safe than sorry category of what you eat.

                                                                                                                                My basic requirement is the food has to be piping hot. Although I don't buy if I'm not comfortable with the cleanliness overall.

                                                                                                                                I haven't had street food often, and I suspect I'm missing out, but I've never gotten sick (at least not seriously). The few times I've gotten a little sick ( like the time I had lukewarm chicken samosa at an art gallery in Dhaka, too polite to say no thanks) leads me to think I'm better off sticking to my basic rules.

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: hsk

                                                                                                                                  My only true sickness was American-made peanut butter that had been recalled due to salmonella.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                    You are my kind of person. I've eaten everywhere I've gone, in restaurants and on the street, in places where the hand towels provided were dried up and stiff (Taichung), and the only place I've ever gotten sick from the food was in Paris, at a highly-touted organic food restaurant near the Arc de Triomphe...

                                                                                                                                2. One comment: throughout the developing world I've found the fancy, modern gleaming hotels to have the worst kitchens in terms of hygiene. At the same time, street food prep is there in plain sight - almost always done with care, cleanliness, and fresh ingredients with amounts matched to what will be consumed that day. I've never gotten sick from street or market foods.

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                    SEE PEOPLE ----- THE MASTER HAS SPOKEN :)

                                                                                                                                    Seriously, Sam, when I started this thread I wasn't even thinking of health risks. I just reread it to refresh my aging memory. Food safety aside I think there are simply people who only want to eat someplace that has been recommended and isn't a stretch for them adventure-wise. I see them in my life and I see them on Chowhound. There's no right or wrong but, boy, I think they're missing alot. As I said above, I'd rather have the occasional dud meal and know I was out there checking things out. We're beginning our third week in Rio and we don't always know precisely what we're ordering :) but we love the process :)

                                                                                                                                  2. In one word, I love street food, the one food issue that my adoptive country - France - does not excell.
                                                                                                                                    Street food is related to, duh, snack culture.
                                                                                                                                    France does not have a snack culture. An isolated exception is pan bagnat in the south, while in Paris the rue-des-Rosiers Falafel stand has become so institutionalized, with its own crowd control and its barkers.
                                                                                                                                    Spain and Italy have a snack culture, hence street food.
                                                                                                                                    But I am chauvinistic about street food in Asia. The fish egg stick in Hong Kong, stinky tofu in Shanghai, hot fresh soy milk in the morning in the alleyways. And Bangkok and Chang Mai. And Taipei ! Heaven is non-stop Asian street food against a Lubéron sunset…

                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Parigi

                                                                                                                                      but street is food is often not snack food

                                                                                                                                    2. I agree with Sam, I'll eat street food it it's piping hot and cooked where I can see how clean it is. Here's a stall in a market in Bogota (I didn't actually have any, because I'd just had breakfast at the hotel, but I would have, it looked and smelled really good).

                                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                      1. Currently, I'm an expat living in remote area of Asia. I'll tell you what a city restaurant inspector told me -- when in doubt, always order something freshly deep fried. I believe in "experiencing" local cuisine and being spontaneous, but one must realize that there are some pretty viscious bugs out there that can totally hose a vacation. Not only the vacation, but some of them have long-lasting side effects that can hang on for a couple of months.

                                                                                                                                        1. Some friends recently returned from a trip to Thailand, and they said that they hesitated to eat food off the street because they saw that the dishes these set-ups were using weren't too clean - dirty dishes were dipped a few times in a bucket of hot water and re-served.

                                                                                                                                          1. is this true?
                                                                                                                                          2. would this stop you?

                                                                                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: janethepain

                                                                                                                                            Sure, washed in one bucket, rinsed in another; water changed every so often. Completely safe, great food. You can also get food in clean, nicely tied plastic bags and go eat in your hotel room.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                              In Rio it seems that many apartments (in perfectly nice neighborhoods if that matters) have only cold water in their kitchen. And their dishwashing detergent sucks - barely foams at all. Did my glasses sparkle? No. But I wasn't concerned about disease.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                                                That was the case in Taipei when we lived there too (you could get hot water by going out on the balcony and lighting the heater, which was usually attended by one of the bigger and more colorful spiders I have ever seen and which came on with a big whoosh. We did not get stomach ailments there (I washed fruit and veg in very mild bleach solution in tap water and rinsed them in cold boiled water). It seemed a real luxury to find hot running water in restrooms and so forth when we went back to North America.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                ok, if you're fine with it, i'm fine with it. I don't think I can turn down a tasty-looking dish that everyone else is eating just because of the dishware, though it would bother me a little bit.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                  "washed in one bucket, rinsed in another; water changed every so often"
                                                                                                                                                  Only if the rinse water is really, really hot. Or if there were a third bucket with quaternary solution :-)

                                                                                                                                                  But seriously, there are things that won't make the locals sick but may affect someone who hasn't been exposed to them all their lives. If the food is piping hot fresh off whatever it was cooked in it's probably fine. If not, why risk ruining your vacation or business trip by not wanting to miss out on a small slice of the overall experience.

                                                                                                                                                  Here's an example of something I wouldn't eat (for food safety reasons, not because it grosses me out)

                                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hsk

                                                                                                                                                    As a kid I worked briefly in an A&W root beer place. The used mugs were dunked into some kind of soapy solution bath, pulled out and left to drain and dry upside down. Nothing else. Street food is far cleaner.

                                                                                                                                                    hsk, I think I've eaten there (place in the photo). Delicious!!!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hsk

                                                                                                                                                      In this case, the problem wouldn't be the food, the problem is what it's served upon. I don't know if it's ok or not to go ahead and eat on those plates, assuming the food is no problem.

                                                                                                                                                      What's wrong with the food safety in that photo? Is there something I'm missing?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: janethepain

                                                                                                                                                        Well for me, it's the not-piping-hot issue. It was obviously prepared and served throughout the morning, it was at best warm. If there were any harmful bacteria around lots of chance to multiply to make-me-sick levels.

                                                                                                                                                        I'm sure it would have been delicious but I wasn't prepared to take the chance. But I don't eat lukewarm food in buffets around here, either.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: hsk

                                                                                                                                                          If I saw something like that being served, i would observe a bit to see if they were using safe handling practices and to see if the public had access to handling the food before buying. I ate a bbq-in-the-park in Mexico once where I was confident enough in the grilled barracuda but I passed on the ceviche which was sitting out. Yeah, if properly made the ceviche should be no problem, but I wasn't sure.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: hsk

                                                                                                                                                        This still begs the question: why are the plates 'safer' to eat off of in a restaurant or at your hotel? I think you are making some blind assumptions.

                                                                                                                                                        For the record, I have stayed at a lot of cabins in the US and Canada. Also have gone camping here and abroad. Nobody is boiling the dish washing water. And I have yet to read about the "really, really hot " water standard for killing bacteria. Most folks are washing their utensils with stream water and some camping soap. Dry them off and you are not going to get sick from the plate.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                                                                                                                          Very short, and perhaps pertinent, reference in today's Times. Maybe it's not the temperature of the water that's at issue:

                                                                                                                                                          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/hea...

                                                                                                                                                  2. Some of it looks tempting, and might be worthwhile as log as you have -
                                                                                                                                                    1. A hotel room with a private bath
                                                                                                                                                    2. Pleanty of toilet paper, and
                                                                                                                                                    3. Three or four days with nothing to do.

                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ekammin

                                                                                                                                                      Yes, really just better to stay at home.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                                                        LOL is used rather indiscriminately, but this deserves it.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: ekammin

                                                                                                                                                        As I've mentioned the only time I've been sick was from a US-made peanut butter. I have many times NOT had a private bath - both in the US and abroad. Not sure how much "plenty" of TP is. And I've NEVER had three or four days with nothing to do. Never.

                                                                                                                                                        So *I* feel no need for the things you mention but, yeah, as Sam said, you might be happier staying home. It's just not worth it for some people. My MIL worked as a travel agent for about 40 years and has traveled to more places than most of us ever will. But she always stayed in "sanitized" American-style hotels and ate sanitized-style food. There's not one thing wrong with that for some; not me but some. I'll stick with the chicken wings from the street vendor in Guatemala. (Will be waiting to hear if JoanN eats any of them this time.)