“I am kind of obsessed with food. I like to eat. When I tour, it is like, well, life a food tour as much as a comedy tour.”-Aziz Ansari
It has been said that the best way to know more about a country is to eat your way through it. Resultantly, the concept of food tours was introduced. After all, according to Paul Prudhomme, one does not require a silver fork to eat good food. This sentiment alone tells us that excellent food can be found and enjoyed almost anywhere in a foreign city, from luxurious and sophisticated restaurants to obscure and relatively unknown eateries.
In fact, the very idea of food tourism capitalizes on showcasing tourists and locals the best of what the city can offer in terms of culinary treats while simultaneously exploring the locale. After all, food tourism is about the adventure as much as it is about the food. Unfortunately, while you are guaranteed to a smorgasbord of scrumptious treats at every stop, no one can vouch for the quality of food you are going to ingest—regardless of whether you are dining at a restaurant or in a food tour. The consumption of food may be a visceral experience, albeit enjoyable on a whole but that does not excuse our blithe attitude in terms of checking its quality before consumption. Getting sick in the middle of a trip can truly put a damper on your plans and deter you from trying out more local foods which is why we need to be a little more vigilant about the food we are about to ingest—most especially when we are on the road and in areas where comfort rooms are rather scarce. However, this article is not meant to deprive you of enjoyment associated with trying out new hole-in-the-wall restaurants and street food fares.
It does, however, caution you to be a little mindful of the basic sanitary practices that went into the preparation of your food. You can still approach eating with reckless abandon, but at the very least try to follow basic sanitary guidelines regardless of whether you are eating at a five-star restaurant or with some food buddies in a food trip in Pampanga. In any case, here are some of the ways you can have an authentic dining experience while you mitigate the risks of getting ill:
Wash your hands often
There is no substitute for washing your hands with soap and water. Alternatives such as hand sanitizers, alcohol, and hand creams just do not cut it. Before partaking in a meal, always ALWAYS wash your hands. In fact, wash them whenever you can and then, wash them again. Not to promote obsessive-compulsiveness but washing your hands is a good habit to develop. In this regard, wash your hands before and after a meal and anytime you can think of it.
Beware of fruit shakes in drink stands with no access to purified water
Sure, they look tempting enough on the stands and what’s more is that they are reasonably priced as well. However, before you try every flavor available and go on a fruit shake bingefest, be a hundred percent sure that the water they have been using (and the ice for that matter) has been purified. Of course, this is not to say you should deprive yourself of the inexpensive pleasure of drinking beverages made from a drink stand. But, if it does not have access to potable water and has questionable sanitary practices, you might want to skip this treat.
Choose cooked over fresh food
While food freshness is key, if you are uncertain about the hygiene and sanitary practices of a particular restaurant or eatery, it would make more sense to opt for food that is properly cooked. Anything that has been cooked in high temperature will kill residual germs and bacteria that might have been sitting on the food. Keep in mind that though a food might be fresh, if it was improperly handled, there is still a likely chance it would give you the stomach flu. So, when you are in doubt, go for anything that is fried, boiled or baked instead.
Take it easy on the meat
Meat can turn potentially rancid in a significantly shorter time that vegetables ever will. More importantly, it is a lot meaner on your body when ingested. If you are unsure about how your meat is handled (or how long it stood), go easy on it and choose vegetables instead. As much as possible, reserve your meat-eating exploits within the confines of formal restaurants and eateries where it is guaranteed to have refrigeration.
Look for high turnover and low fly-count
If you are feeling a bit adventurous and would want to try the flavors of the street, look for stalls that have a high turnover of food. More importantly, scout for food stalls that do not have flies atop their food. Flies are vectors of disease and if they have sitting atop food for a while, there is a likely chance that the food would already be contaminated with bacteria and germs.