Being the type of person that eats week old chicken from the fridge, I’m probably the last person that should give advice about this but I’m going to give it my best shot. There are some things on the street here even I won’t eat. I want to share some tips on eating street food in India but really a lot of these can go for just eating in India and not getting sick. I asked in my Facebook group, and it seems like this is one of your biggest fears!
15 tips for eating street food in India
1. Don’t be afraid of the street food. It’s just like any other hot country with street food. In northern India, the street momo’s are the best I’ve had in any restaurant in the world. Don’t miss out on this!
2. This is one that always works- go where the locals are. If there’s a long ass line with local’s chowing down on samosas then obviously they are good AND they are making them fresh.
3. I usually stay veg only when I eat street food. You just don’t know how long the meat has been sitting out before it was stuffed inside whatever they’re frying in it. Exception: the beef cutlet guy at the Arpora/ Anjuna roundabout in Goa… give me those beef burgers all day! Obviously shwarma and other stands that are known for meat are okay. I’m talking more like small stands that have one meat option.. it’s probably been sitting there all day.
4. Judge on cleanliness. Are they using a dirty old knife and a cutting board covered in mold? Probably skip eating at that place. It’s really just using your judgment here and deciding if they place looks clean enough to eat at.
5. Beware of the street drinks which are not hot. Because the water didn’t come to a boil it could be bad, and most likely the ice was NOT made from clean water like you’d automatically assume in an Indian restaurant. Just because the locals are drinking it doesn’t make it okay as they can handle the water better than a foreigners body.
6. Beware of the Sauce.If you get a samosa and sauce is offered, just know the sauce and chutneys are made with tap water most times and could have been sitting out in the sun a while. I always eat it anyways, but I’m a streetfood risk-taker. They also water it down to make it last longer.
7. Any grilled or deep fried veg, fruit, and nuts should be snatched up and eaten! It is so good. The corn on the cob grilled with lime and salt is the best I’ve ever had. The fresh potato chips are almost as good as the pan roasted nuts. Maybe the veg and fruit wasn’t washed, but it’s been cooked and should be fine. Don’t be alarmed if they re-fry something. It’s kind of like re-heating it and it might not have been cooked fully at first. It’s to speed things up when you order. Definitely try a potato patty (aloo tikki) and dosas in the south.
8. This is a no brainer, but if you buy fresh fruit and veg from a stall, you need to wash with clean water before eating.
9. Puffs and samosas are common but if you don’t know the Hindi words for specific veg, don’t except much explanation. They will just say it’s a “veg puff”. You can guess which one! In Goa it’s usually aloo (potato), while in Kerala you get a scrumptious egg puff or a mutta(r) puff (peas)
10. Avoid ice basically all the time on the street.
11. Chai is totally fine to drink even when the place looks a bit dirty and grimy. Sometimes you can stop in Bombay at 4 am and buy chai from a guy who’s also selling cigarettes to drunk people. The people who walk up and down trains also sell a mean chai!
12. The GOOD street meat you should eat every chance you get is a shwarma! Usually it’s goat or chicken, or some kind of mix. Doesn’t matter; it tastes like a little lamb. They layer lots of mayo on local bread and some fresh veg (which may or may not be clean, but like I said… I’m not really the best person to be telling you what to eat since I eat everything). Usually shwarmas are so popular that you don’t need to worry about freshness and the whole slab of meat will be gone in two hours, but if you see them re-light the meat and heat it back up that’s a sign it’s old and might get you sick.
13. When you get fresh juice, have them juice it in front of you, don’t take a cup of pre-made juice. It could be very old or watered down with bad water.
14. If you are buying food from a vendor during a bus stop and can’t tell if the food is fresh, ask in Hindi: yay taja hay? They will be too impressed/confused with your Hindi to lie to you.
15. Lastly, don’t blame your illness on the street vendor if you do get sick. Who knows, maybe you hadn’t washed your hands! It’s a common mistake while backpacking but in India you really need to at least rinse them with bottled water if you don’t have sanitizer or hand wipes.
Are you ready for your big trip to India?
Check out my other article on eating here: how to make sure you don’t get Delhi Belly. You can also check out my tips on vaccinations and what to pack in your medical kit. Want more tips for traveling India or better yet to have me plan your trip? Buy my India Guide ebook and even if you ONLY read that, you’ll be 1000% prepared for your trip. It’s 6 years of India travel experience all wrapped up in an organized easy to read manner.
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