They did say that the window to a culture is their food. Tasting the local food is one of the major reasons why a lot of people travel. One of the first things that pop up to your mind when one thinks of experience a culture is experiencing the meals; be it the food, or the pure experience of eating itself.
Actually eating like a local might actually be an entirely different ordeal. In a lot of countries, there is a barrier between tourists and locals. This could be caused by a whole set of different factors. But one main cause that is almost always applicable is affordability. If it’s not affordable, then it’s already a huge indicator that locals don’t usually eat there, unless they can splurge. Aside from the clear price factor, there are other fundamental ways if you genuinely want to taste the local delicacies.
Make sure that you know what you want. People often come to a country wanting to “taste the most authentic local food” but ended up spending 10 dollars a meal in Southeast Asia. “If it looks exotic, it’s local”—you could easily be misled if you only have a vague idea about what local food you’d want to eat. So do your research. Note down the name of the food and you can even find out how the locals pronounce them, which is a pretty easy task. Not being specific on what you want to eat may also confuse your choice with food from other region and not exactly local to the current place you’re at. Unless you don’t mind, of course. Therefore once again, be specific, you’d already done half the homework by knowing what you want.
Don’t eat out at overpriced restaurants
Often time, the taste has been adjusted to appeal to larger audience. Especially in a place such as Southeast Asia, restaurants like these are geared towards tourists and expats. With your taste taken into consideration, it sort of misses the point of eating authentic local food. Locals also likely won’t be able to afford eating out at these overpriced (often not-so-fancy) restaurants on a weekly basis, much less on a daily basis.
Walk around the neighborhood
Walking around the neighborhood may give you access to the information not already existing on the internet—giving you heads up to yet an “undiscoverable” place. Spot which place has a consistent crowd. One of the easiest ways to do this is by coming during lunch hours. Does a lot of locals eat there? A good place would usually have regular patrons of locals who are workers around the area. It’s a good indication of good local food and is an excellent start.
Be cautious of hygiene
This is something that a lot of people had only realized when they arrive at their destinations. Depending on your destination, food hygiene may be an issue. If you see a lot of locals eat from dishes that seem to always attract a couple of flies around them and not worry nor be disgusted by it, it’s because likely their body has developed immunity towards the “local bacteria”—while you, may not. Make sure to bring some meds. Consult with your doctor about your trip and ask them about what could help prevent or treat hygiene-related issue caused by food.