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On a recent trip to Bangkok, we ran into another traveler and got to talking. After a drink, he confessed that he hadn’t eaten a single piece of street food while in the city. In a food mecca like Bangkok, that’s a borderline tourist felony. He and many others avoid street food thinking that if they eat something street-side, they’ll be glued to the toilet for the next week of their vacation. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Follow these 5 tips to find good and—more importantly, safe—street food.

RELATED: Warning: This post causes serious Singapore street food cravings

 

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Which one do you think is better? – Photo by Karen Blumberg – Flickr cc

1. Eat at the busy stalls

If you only follow one of these tips it should be this one. If a street cart is busy, then that probably says a few things about the food. First, it’s good, and secondly, the food is turning over quickly. That means it’s cooked closer to your order time, making it many times safer to eat.

 

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Heat is the key to good safe street food – Photo by GettingStamped.com

2. Get it while it’s hot

You know how every Thanksgiving you break out the thermometer for the turkey waiting for it to get over the magic red line? That’s because the bad bacteria that can live in food can’t survive over acertain temperature. That magic temperature is right around 160°F (71°C). If your food is that hot, you can be assured nothing inside the food can hurt you. Now we don’t expect you to travel around the world with a meat thermometer in your pocket because that’s a sure way to get detained by TSA. A better way to judge temperatures is by touch or by your tongue. For most people, 160°F is too hot to eat, so if you have to let it cool, you’re probably in the clear.

One important note: A few pitfalls with temperature is that the entire dish has to be cooked thoroughly. Just like the Thanksgiving turkey, that means the heat has to reach into the thickest part of the meat, and everywhere around it.

ALSO: Another safe bet—Orbitz Rewards! It’s fast and it’s free.

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Fresh Mangosteen in its very own natural wrapper! – Photo by GettingStamped.com

3. Stick to fruits with a natural wrapper

While traveling, you’ll likely encounter all kinds of exotic fruits and vegetables to try. Many may seem like a curiously delicious snack, but be skeptical of some fruits. As a general rule, stay away from fruits where you consume the entire thing, skin included—think berries, peaches and apples. In many countries around the world, these fruits need to be disinfected prior to eating. Most times we find this too troublesome and stick to fruits that you peel or cut before eating. Bananas, oranges and items like melons fit this category. If a fruit must be cut open, insist on having it cut fresh for you and avoid pre-cut slices or chunks of fruit. If a vendor has a clean looking stall and cuts a piece of fruit for you, you should be pretty safe.

 

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This guy does one thing, and one thing only: amazing Northern Thai sausages! – Photo by GettingStamped.com

4. Look for limited selection

Go to street carts that sell just one thing or a few things at most. A good street cart should only do 2-3 dishes or a few variations on the same primary dish. This will ensure that the food is turning over quickly and not sitting around. Plus, if they specialize in just one thing, it’s probably going to be good.

RELATED: Check out the 10 best high-altitude bars—one’s in Bangkok!

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The locals know best; follow them and you probably won’t go wrong! – Photo by GettingStamped.com

5. Go where the locals go

A long line of local people lets you know the food you are about to have is as authentic as it gets. On topof that, the locals aren’t goingto go there if the food gets you sick. Keep in mind for most of these street vendors, this is their livelihood. They wouldn’t last long if they made their local customers sick.

If after reading this, you’re still not convinced, just remember that most of these these precautions you can’t even apply at restaurants, where the kitchen’s behind closed doors. It’s important to understand that bacteria is everywhere. It’s even on your food at your fancy home grocery store, it’s literally everywhere. So that’s why it’s important to know a few proper food handling techniques to help you avoid a potential colon catastrophe on your next vacation.

For a deeper look into why street food can be some of the safest meals to eat while traveling, check out the full guide to safe street food.

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Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers
Hannah & Adam are travel writers & photographers who have called the road home since 2013. Their passion for adventurous travel has brought them to 60 countries and counting. They blog about their adventures on their travel blog GettingStamped.com.
Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers

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