Why TikTok Is a Force for Good in the World of Street Food

Given how much of a toxic wasteland it can be, social media may not seem like it deserves much admiration. Heaping praise on TikTok in particular feels like a totally alien concept – one that leaves you feeling a bit grubby and soulless. However, if you can get past all the insane dance routines and questionable music, there is a treasure trove of culinary gold to be found.

Ordinarily, the reaction to someone extolling the virtues of a social media platform when it comes to street food would be to roll your eyes so hard they simply fall out of your skull. Yet TikTok is not just mindless influencers going bananas over the way a bloke sprinkles salt on horrendously overpriced steak. It is a platform to help expose the masses to new cuisines and cultures they otherwise never would have discovered or even been interested in.

‘Street food’, unfortunately, has become something of a meaningless buzz word over the last few years – a blanket term to dress up some poorly made or inauthentic offerings. However, type it into TikTok’s search bar and up pops an endless stream of rapid-fire videos that are as informative as they are incredibly popular.

No sooner has your finger hit ‘search’ than you are inundated with videos titled things such as ‘I only have $0.06 – Is It Enough To Eat In Thailand?’ and ‘Palermo street tour on a budget’. The majority of creators are American tourists and influencers aiming to create content on a budget. And while that may sound unbearable, this content is opening people’s eyes to more affordable (and less tourist trappy) places that we all want to find on our travels.

During a global economic crisis, having an almost endless supply of holiday food videos – with vendors that won’t break the bank – is actually a priceless service. The likeability of the presenters themselves is secondary when you consider the places they are showing their followers. And this means creators are taking themselves out of their comfort zones in order to rack up engagement and grow their accounts. The more interesting a service they can provide, the more followers they get. Everyone’s a winner.

You only need to scroll through the search results for 30 seconds and you will see sugarcane juice being prepared in Mumbai, alligator skewers served up in a Bangkok market, freshly baked flatbreads filled to the brim with various grilled and roasted meats in Turkey, and cassava being tossed with lemon juice, salt and red chilli in Rongai, Kenya.

Markets and stalls from across the world are suddenly available to you in bite-sized snippets that don’t leave you feeling overwhelmed or totally broke. The product is there in all its glory for you to see. You get an insight into the vibe and atmosphere of a place without even stepping foot inside. It’s almost like the first step is being taken for you – and it only takes 60 seconds (or less) to digest.

While more in-depth articles and documentary series are of course crucial – and speak to a more personal experience within cultures and their culinary histories – TikTok is a useful conduit through which to make a lasting first impression. These videos leave the viewer wanting to learn more. And, perhaps most importantly, to learn it first-hand.

Off the beaten track has never been more appealing to travellers, with more and more holiday makers tiring of resorts and classic landmarks. The night markets, the roadside mystery meat stands, the noodle bars and hidden town squares are the places to be nowadays. People want to discover more – and, thanks to TikTok, they’re discovering it more readily than ever.