The Reality of ‘Eating Local’
Monday, March 12th, 2012

Food is one of the quintessential experiences on any trip, no matter what destination you might visit. Sampling local cuisine is a sure way to understand the native culture, mingle with locals, and tantalize your taste buds with new, fresh foods. However, eating while on the road can be a daunting experience, with food safety top of mind, as it should be. How do you know if street food is safe? What are the risk factors? What are the signs to look for? What are the top destinations to sample street food or local delicacies?

Let me start by reassuring you that there is delicious, clean food everywhere, no matter if you’re in the backstreets of Hanoi or a market in New Delhi. I’ve sampled many street eats in numerous countries with no severe issues (so far)! What’s the trick? When wandering a neighborhood or market, the #1 thing to remember is that heat kills almost all germs. Generally speaking, you have better chances of getting ill by eating that apple washed with local water in your hotel than the mystery meat kebab, fresh off the flame. Also, don’t avoid the crowds; in this situation, a busy street stall with tons of locals means the food is likely safe and also tastes great! Lastly, trust your gut (no pun intended). If a stall looks filthy and sketchy, it probably is. Believe me, there are always multiple options so don’t be afraid to move on if it doesn’t feel right.

If street food isn’t your thing, fair enough! That doesn’t mean though that you can’t still eat local (and cheap). One of the key reasons why we at Intrepid Travel frequent only local eating establishments is that this practice gives back to the local economy. Not to mention, food is almost always fresh and flavorful at local restaurants. If you’re looking for a great cafe for lunch, ask around – the shop keeper where you bought that souvenir likely has his favorites, as does your hotel doorman. I try to avoid concierges or hotel front desk staff, as they almost always receive commissions for recommendations.

Okay, so now that you know how to eat like a local, the question is where should you go for these experiences? Some of the top food destinations that Intrepid travels to are Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Italy, Spain, France, Morroco, Turkey, and Peru. Whew, that’s quite a list!

The best place to start in most of these countries are the local markets, such as Ben Thanh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Here, you’ll find literally hundreds of stalls serving up steamy, spicy bowls of pho. Or take a walk around the medina in Marrakesh, Morocco to sample a local Tajine, a slow-cooked stew. In Cuzco, Peru, you can find a bit more exotic fare, including cuy – more commonly known as guinea pig. Europe is a classic destination for more traditional, but equally delicious foods, such as paella in Spain and braised rabbit in France. A little farther afield, exprience the fiery flavors of India, including classic curries and kormas in the Rajasthan region.

Wherever your career break or extended travels take you, don’t be afraid to dive into the local cuisine. A little bit of common sense and food safety goes a long way to enjoying what may end up as a highlight of your trip!

Hungry yet? For a limited time through March 31st, Intrepid Travel is offering a 15% discount off select ‘Delicious Discoveries’ to these destinations and more! For more info visit Intrepid online.

We are proud to have Intrepid Travel as a National Meet, Plan, Go! sponsor.

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