Street meat, is a slang description for a meal containing an animal product that was prepared by a pop-up street vendor. These meals are quick and unbelievably tasty when you approach the right vendor. If you are feeling adventurous while travelling in a foreign land, you can end up with a quality local meal and avoid paying tourist prices in an expensive restaurant.
The 10 Rules of Street Meat
- Pay attention to where and how the meat is being stored. Refrigeration is not easily managed by a chef without access to electricity. Look for people who are using coolers as this is a sign they understand the need for proper refrigeration.
- Be wary of stands that have piles of pre-cooked meat that is being served to customers slowly over time. Don’t eat meat that was already prepared prior to your arrival as there is no way to know how long the meal has been sitting out. Watch the person cook the meat in front of you!
- Examine the colour of the raw meat. It should be bright red. If it appears slightly cooked (brownish or grey), there is a good chance that bacteria has already begun to set in. One night in Santa Ines, Karina and I were lured by delicious smells to a street side hamburger stand and after watching the apparent ‘perfect’ patties smoke on the grill, we peaked behind the counter for further inspection. The uncooked patties were green; BRIGHT green.
- If you typically prefer to have meat prepared medium or rare, when it concerns street-meat you should air on the side of caution and always ensure that it is well done (especially with chicken.) There should not be any pink in the middle.
- It is common in Guatemala and other Central American countries to serve dishes with meat and beans with cream on the side. Opt out of the cream and avoid items containing mayo.
- Look around the makeshift kitchen area to see how sanitation is being handled. Are they wearing gloves? Are they handling both the raw and cooked meat with the same utensils? Do they have a wash-bin for utensils and the cook’s hands, or do they have a Saint Bernard out back who washes the plates clean when customers are not looking?
- In countries with hot climates locals have adapted their cuisine to include many antimicrobial spices to help battle food-spoil microorganisms. How the food is flavored by spices could protect you. More Info: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/1998/03/food-bacteria-spice-survey-shows-why-some-cultures-it-hot)
- The food must be covered at all times to protect it from exposure to bugs, stray animals and other contaminates from the street (car exhaust, people, and dust).
- If you have several vendors to choose from, seek out the one with the long line up. Trust the locals to help you judge the best place to eat, even if this means you will have to wait a little longer in line.
- Many places in this world will serve you barbequed flesh from animals you are not accustom to eating back home. If you are squeamish about this fact you might want to avoid eating street meat. Be comfortable with what you are about to eat. You won’t enjoy the meal if you are preoccupied, worrying you might regret it.