Sampling local foods when traveling, how to taste your destination without unwanted surprises.
Trying out local food is one of the most exhilarating parts of traveling, it is experiencing flavors tastes and food items under a different light, in different mixes that would have otherwise never floated in your imagination. Spices that you have only seen or heard of on TV or read about on cook books full of exotic recipes. Thanks to a diverse earth, climates, soils and cultures, sampling local foods completes the travel experience, enriches it and makes it memorable. It might even be how you come about your signature magic recipe that stays with you for life, and wows whomever you share it with.
However, it can also be a source of concern or in some cases hassle, to just jump into the alluring smells colors and flavors head first, forgetting what comes later. So how can one enjoy all the delights that come with a whole new taste palate? Without risking to spend time fighting gastric issues, stomach discomfort, or spend a much valuable time recovering from an unwanted illness?
Sounds alarmist, but depending on the region of the world you travel to, there are challenges to be aware of, not just as far as food stuffs, but in general.
First things first, water, needs to be clean, and safe to drink, if you manage to make this a reality for this part of your travel consumables, that is indeed half the battle won.
Second: freshness, easier said than done, right, as you do not see or control where some of what you eat is coming from, but anything you do have control of, you should naturally exert common sense and only consume things you are sure to be, fresh, either through your own visual and firsthand inspection, or through your previous research of the outlet where you are eating, to ensure it is safe, devoid of possible pathogens, toxins and pesticides etc... So, again research is key in this matter, before you book your destination, do a little looking, to be informed.
Third, Street vendors - The smells and aromas colors and of course skill of the vendors as you entice and allure you with a show that makes your eyes open and mouth water. For the most part if you can see the ingredients as they are being prepared and cooked to your liking, be mindful that some vendors will reuse leftovers and freshness becomes in question. In many countries , however, they have to follow rules and regulations especially in countries with a tourist tradition and a robust consumer health regimens and institutions. In this case, street vendors are a great delicious cheap alternative that brings you closer to the cuisine of your destination. Let alone, the fact that it is less disruptive to your day activities than taking the time to commute and find a place to eat then go back to what you were enjoying, unless you plan your meal stops for the whole day, ahead of time, which, lets face it lacks spontaneity. In many places, food tours are available and offer many stops that showcase local cuisines, and are a safe bet.
Another thing to be mindful of, is when you are faced with something you have not seen tried or eaten before, it is hard to know if you will be allergic to it, if it will be sharp to your taste buds or spicy, or how your stomach will handle it. Ask what it is made of, read labels when available, and take small increment test first bites, when deemed fresh enough.
This does not mean to be paranoid, and risk offending friendly welcoming hosts at times. especially when people kindly and proudly share their culinary creations with you.
Display courtesy, that is not to be fake, and shower people with insincere praise, but rather stay calm and and inquisitive , and remember that some mixes of tastes and flavors are more common in other places and would not necessarily be your thing, or would even provoke a reaction or a grimace.
The point is to inoculate yourself against your own lack of knowledge and experience and not just jump in with open arms and blissful ignorance and hope nothing bad happens. Your usual environment has taught you for years what you need to do to enjoy what it offers. What you need to know to enjoy a completely foreign environment is a recipe of common sense, research and healthy caution.