Nothing gives a traveler more confidence than partaking in street food: you finally fit in, you’re not just some foreign tourist. Unfortunately, your cultural triumph may turn into tribulation if you choose the wrong local cuisine. With a little help from some antibiotics and Imodium AD most visitors can combat bouts of food poisoning, however, some bugs are more difficult to get rid of and can cause G.I. problems for months to come. With that in mind, this article is not meant to scare you into solely drinking bottled water and eating jello cups, be adventurous with your food choices and always keep a bottle of pepto near!
India has become so infamous for food poisoning traveler’s have even coined a term, “Delhi Belly”. Between the intense and sometimes exotic spices and the lack of refrigerated street food, India’s reputation as, perhaps, the food poisoning capital of the world, does not deter travelers from partaking in mouth-watering curries, dahl, and korma.
Another country with legendary food poisoning is our southern neighbor–Mexico. Ever heard of Montezuma’s Revenge? Thought to be a blight cast by the Aztecs on their Spanish occupiers, Montezuma’s revenge is one helluva gastrointestinal curse. Score one for the Aztecs. One sure-fire way to avoid food poisoning while visiting Mexico is to bypass food that has been washed with untreated water. On that note, avoid untreated water.
Word to the wise: if you’re buying food and there are flies buzzing around it/landing on it DO NOT EAT IT. This seems like an obvious choice but when you are staring at a rotisserie of lamb dripping with juice, sometimes you stomach acts on behalf of your brain. Morocco has fantastic street food and most of it is safe. The trick to eating Moroccan food, without explosive consequences, is to make a gradual introduction. You can reward your patience with those raw beef Medina burgers–YUM!
Brazil has many wonderful foods to offer. Whether you’re snacking on the power-packed Acai berries or shoveling down Brazil’s most popular dish–rice and beans, Brazilian food is guaranteed to intrigue your taste buds. However one food that should not be taken lightly is tacaca. This traditional Brazilian soup, most common in the Amazon region, has a delicious mucus-like consistency and a pungent briny aroma. That, combined with the shrimp tails and jambu, a flowering herb that numbs your mouth (perhaps to help trick your body into thinking you’re not eating your own snot), makes this Brazilian dish both a cultural delicacy as well as a vomit inducing tasty treat. It’s best served extremely hot.