One of the most common questions I get asked as a food writer is: ‘How do you not get sick from eating all that street food?’ But the truth is, I do get sick and although I’ve written about conditioning my gut for street food before in ‘on the edge of pasteurization‘, I thought I would offer some more practical advice on avoiding trip-spoiling gastric upset.
If you’re flying, it’s not worth trying.
No matter how delicious the bhel puri looks, if you’re flying the next day it’s best to leave this all-day snack alone. A crunchy, cold, sweet-and-sour mix of puffed rice, sev, chopped onion and potato, and tamarind chutney is something you do not want to see again at thirty-thousand feet – trust me, avoid street food twenty-four hours before flying.
Don’t eat it, tweet it.
Instead of making sure that seafood curry is fresh and thoroughly cooked and served hot with a high turnover at a place frequented by locals, take a photo of it – no one will ever know you didn’t eat it #fresh #authentic #notlikehome. For best results, make sure the vendor is featured in a candid situation cooking in a dirty urban environment. Alternatively, you may seek a more prosaic depiction of the scene, as a form of social documentary. This blog is full of examples of such photography.
Peel it or forget it.
Someone once told me of a traveler’s mantra, attributed to colonial explorers, that went something like this: ‘Cook it, wash it, peel it or forget it’. I have taken it one step further, as with street food, the cooking and washing parts are generally out of your control. Peel it or forget it. Although somewhat limited to citrus fruits, grilled bananas and papaya, I have followed a diet based on this mantra for weeks. I like to choose slightly unripe bananas, when they still have a greenish color indicating they contain a lot of constipating starch, as for me super ripe papayas have a somewhat balancing effect. This mantra also helps in avoiding dishes requiring a lot of food handling to prepare.
What are some of your tips for avoiding and recovering from trip-spoiling gastric upset?
Thanks to contaro70s for making his beautiful photo of the grilled bananas (a street food staple of mine) available under creative commons.