How to eat Indian street food safely

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Tucking into street food is one of the joys of travelling in India – here are some tips to help avoid tummy troubles.

1. Give yourself a few days to adjust to the local cuisine, especially if you’re not used to spicy food.

'colors - indian street vendor' by utpal. CC BY 2.0'colors - indian street vendor' by utpal. CC BY 2.0

2. You know the rule about following a crowd – if the locals are avoiding a particular vendor, you should too. Also take notice of the profile of the customers – any place popular with families will probably be your safest bet.

'samosas, pakoras' by sakura. CC BY 2.0 'samosas, pakoras' by sakura. CC BY 2.0

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3. Check how and where the vendor is cleaning the utensils, and how and where the food is covered. If the vendor is cooking in oil, have a peek to check it’s clean. If the pots or surfaces are dirty, there are food scraps about or too many buzzing flies, don’t be shy to make a hasty retreat.

'food in india' by loic-schule. CC BY-SA 2.0'food in india' by loic.schule. CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Don’t be put off when you order some deep-fried snack and the cook throws it back into the wok. It’s common practice to partly cook the snacks first and then finish them off once they’ve been ordered. In fact, frying them hot again will kill any germs.

'street food' by irumge. CC BY 2.0'street food' by irumge. CC BY 2.0

5. Unless a place is reputable (and busy), it’s best to avoid eating meat from the street.

Image by Benjamin Vander Steen. CC BY 2.0Image by Benjamin Vander Steen. CC BY 2.0

6. The hygiene standard at juice stalls is wildly variable, so exercise caution. Have the vendor press the juice in front of you and steer clear of anything stored in a jug or served in a glass (unless you’re absolutely convinced of the washing standards).

'Some spicy tangy aam panna' by Satish Krishnamurthy. CC BY 2.0'Some spicy tangy aam panna' by Satish Krishnamurthy. CC BY 2.0

7. Don’t be tempted by glistening pre-sliced melon and other fruit, which may keep its luscious veneer with the regular dousing of (often dubious) water.

'Water Melon Juice' by tpms5. CC BY-ND 2.0'Water Melon Juice' by tpms5. CC BY-ND 2.0

This article was first published in October 2010 and was republished in January 2013.