Eating unique food while you're traveling can be a fantastic adventure for you and your taste buds – in a good way!
While all the strange ingredients and difficult-to-pronounce menu items can be intimidating and a bit scary, there's not much reason to worry. You don't have to be afraid of different food and if you are, maybe it’s best to stay home!
Generally, your home kitchen has more lethal potential than a foreign restaurant or even a street vendor! And one of the very best and fastest ways to grab a piece of a new culture is by eating the traditional cuisine.
With a few common-sense tips and a hint of good judgment and, of course, a taste for adventure, you'll soon be sending snaps of your plates to friends back home!
So, here are some tips to consider:
1. Intimidating Isn't Unsafe!
If you're traveling in a region where the traditional cuisine is very different from what you're used to back home, it's natural to feel a bit intimidated.
However, be sure to recognize the difference between unsafe and intimidating.
Even the strangest-sounding and most unfamiliar foods, if cooked and handled properly, can be perfectly safe – and absolutely delicious! Travel is all about adventure, so let your taste buds in on the fun. Go on...go for that deep fried grasshopper.
2. Visit the Local Market
Visit the local market wherever you are. Look for food not familiar to you and find out how they eat it. Bring it to your hotel if the seller does not speak your language. The hotel staff can often tell you more about the food.
Often, you can get food in local markets, already cooked at half the price of what's sold in restaurants and from our own experience, they often taste better.
3. Ask the Locals
While traveling in your home country, you've probably asked a cab driver, a hotel clerk or even a gas station cashier where the best food can be found. It's natural – locals know their area better than anybody. They have no more interest in being ill than you!
Traveling abroad is no different. While there's nothing wrong with checking out the restaurants highlighted in a travel guide, don't limit yourself. Locals will be happy to point you towards their favorite culinary spots, and this is a time-honored way of finding the real hidden 'goodies' which haven't yet been overrun by tourists.
Go for the local fast food as well. But for certain...be careful with the chicken. When we travel, we eat little meat of any sort because the vegetable dishes are usually so fantastic.
4. Keep it Safe
Eating something with which you're unfamiliar is not going to kill you – or even make you sick. Eating something which has been improperly handled or cooked, however, certainly can.
Just as when you're at home, pay attention to food-safety procedures. Stay away from anything which could be high-risk, such as unwashed produce, uncooked or undercooked meats, or unpasteurized dairy. Check the chicken. Super cooked is the only way to go...away and at home. These foods can harbor very harmful bacteria. You certainly don't want to spend your vacation in the bathroom – or the hospital – so avoid these high-risk categories.
However, don’t assume that your home culture has an exclusive ownership on food hygiene ideas. Millions of folks travel every year and no more become ill than those staying in their home country.
Handling food is just as important. If you're purchasing from a street vendor, you'll easily be able to see how they handle your food. If they touch it with bare hands after handling uncooked items or after handling money, don't be afraid to say no. If it isn’t really well cooked, think twice.
5. Get out of the Hotel
The point of traveling is to experience a different culture. Why, then, would you want to scarf down the very same burger you could get at home?
Yes, it can be interesting to discover what a 'foreign' Whopper tastes like. Just be careful, however, that you don't get caught up eating at one of these international chains for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.
Remember, hotels usually cater to the international business palate with bland dishes. Eating pasta in Vientiane is a massive breakdown of imagination! There is an entire world of fresh new flavors awaiting you, so don't park your culinary car and stay in one space.
6. Take cooking lessons
There are many locals now offering cooking classes. They often bring you to the local market to shop fort fresh ingredients.
This is your chance to ask about the food items you haven't seen before and also how to prepare these. Knowing how to cook your favourite dish from where you're travelling will enhance your dinner repertoire. You can treat your friends to some of these dishes when you get home.
7. Share the Deliciousness!
If you want to give your friends back home a real 'taste' of the local flavor, upload a few shots of your favorite local dishes.
They'll be loads more interesting than a photo of you standing next to the box-tickable tourist attraction and you might just inspire somebody to take their own culinary adventure! Let your taste buds in on the fun.
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