Yes, yes... Many I know will say it's dirty, unhealthy and so on, but really, it's good food! Touch wood I have never been sick due to eating street food but then again, I do have a 'strong' tummy. Having said that, the only thing that has sent me to the toilet countless times is the damn chilli they seem to love in abundance, which is in almost everything they cook.
Some of the best foods to try are Pad Thai (fried flat vermicelli noodles), Som Tam (spicy young papaya salad, I mean it's seriously spicy) and the pancake (Thai pancake stuffed with Nutella, bananas, chocolate or sugar). These are some of the must try street foods in Thailand, and usually it's better here than in restaurants.
The Thai people seem to love their chilli! Guava-served with a sweet chilli concoction. Crunchy green mango - served with the same concoction. Strawberries-served with sugar+chilli. Everything has chilli! Pff... My system took a really long time to get used to this and boy, the chillies did have their way with my stomach.
Rule No. 1 - The nose is always right.
If it smells good, it would definitely taste good. Follow the smell and you are sure not to be disappointed. After all your senses are first to be fed, before the sight of it.
Rule No. 2 - Make sure it's cooked there and then.
Now, the food may have been grilled before hand or cooked earlier, just make sure that they reheat the food for you at a high temperature to kill off bacteria. Better still, if they can cook you the dish then and there when u place the order is even better. This minimises the risk of food poisoning by 99%. And if u do get food poising still, you seriously have a weak stomach!
Rule No. 3 - Do NOT scrutinise the surrounding too much.
Now stop looking around the floor of the cart except for maybe the food bit and working table area. If you start looking down and around, you'll never eat street food. It's Asia, expect to see a cockroach or two running around. It's normal for these critters to be on the side of the streets. As long as they are not around where the food is placed and being prepared or cooked, it's ok, it's safe to consume. Like I said, just make sure its cooked fresh then and there and you'll be fine.
In Thailand, they love their chilli. I love my chilli but even then this chilli in Thailand is lethal. Even I couldn't handle it and it's the sole reason why I would end up with spending the night in the toilet. Keep reminding the street vendors to go easy on the chilli as they tend to make it as how they would have it, with a lot of chilli!
Rule No. 5 - Always have a medical kit.
In the unlikely even of you having a runny belly from the spices or just rotten luck of getting food poisoning, take these:
- Activated Charcoal - this helps absorb whatever bacteria you might have, reduce flatulence and helps when you have runny belly. Do consult a physician when you purchase them on the dosage requirement in the unlikely event of food poisoning.
- Hydration Salt - helps replenish whatever body salt you have lost from food poisoning. This helps gives you some strength to get yourself up and to the hospital!
- Health Insurance - in the unlikely event that you have to get to the hospital to get your health sorted. If you don't have one, you're a fool! You should always have health insurance or travel insurance when you are abroad!
Please don't be put off with Rule No. 5, it's just a cautionary measure as I got burned by chilli. Countless times. Most travellers forget to pack their travel medical kit for food poisoning, I'm just barely just reminding. I’ve had street food in a lot of places and I’ve only had food poisoning once and that from a restaurant where the seafood wasn’t done properly. But I would still have street food as its just a must in Thailand and its safe.
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