Judging by some Instagram accounts, you’d think the world is full of delicious things and travelers always eat well. I’m here to set the record straight and say that is not true. Not only have I had food poisoning overseas, but I’ve ordered things without having a clue what they were. Sometimes I’ve been glad I didn’t know because I’m not sure I would have eaten it otherwise.
Miscommunications in Portugal
My trip to Portugal was full of miscommunications. I drank a whiskey type beverage that I was told tasted like tea. I ordered fish and was brought octopus. I had a hamburger that had no bun, but cheese and a fried egg. But the most bizarre of dishes was ordered on purpose. I was at Camelo Restaurante in Viana do Castelo when our guide told us about a special dish for this area. Essentially it was rice cooked in pork blood. My more adventurous companions ordered it and I tried some. It wasn’t bad, but certainly not for everyone.
Language Barriers in Vietnam
Adventurous eating was bound to happen in Vietnam. Thankfully, most places had some English menus or pictures that we could choose from. But in Da Nang, we stumbled upon a restaurant full of locals. We were given a menu in Vietnamese but didn’t recognize many items other than “ga”, chicken. We chose an item at random and were brought a pot with some mystery sauce and super bony chicken with some feathery skin still on with baguettes. I mostly dipped the bread in the sauce and tried to get the meat off the bones before giving up. This was the only meal in Vietnam I didn’t like, so I think that’s a pretty good ratio.
Seafood Surprise in Turkey
For my first meal in Turkey, I settled into a random restaurant near my hostel in Istanbul. I’m not sure what I read in the description, but I saw it involved shrimp. What I had was a sizzling skillet of shrimp in a sauce, covered in cheese. It wasn’t bad necessarily, as it had some of my favorite things, but just an odd combination. I didn’t’ see this dish again as I traveled through the country.
Ugly American Eating in Italy
On my first day in Venice with my family in 2006, we stopped at a pizzeria to have lunch and to get out of the rain. We ordered a pizza Americano with a side of fries. We looked like idiots when the pizza came out, covered in fries, with an extra side of fries. It’s clearly not an authentic item, but we all felt silly eating it, even though it was delicious. I can’t find the picture I took of it, but it looked like this picture.
Food with a Face in Malaysia
There were so many good things that I ate in Malaysia, but one that wasn’t a favorite was at a Chinese restaurant inside our hotel in Kuching. We were brought a whole fish on a dish, eyes and all, which we had to cut up and serve ourselves. Ashley, a blogger in our group, was freaked out by the fish head, especially when it ended up on her plate. I’m not squeamish with whole fish, as I’ve eaten it many times before, but this one wasn’t the best.
My tips for eating overseas are as follows:
- Know a few words if you have a special diet or preferences. Like in German “kase” is cheese, so I know to avoid dishes that have it in it.
- When in doubt and when there isn’t an English menu or one with pictures, as the server or a local what they’re eating and order the same.
- Don’t ask, just eat. The more you look at it and pick it up and examine it, the less likely you are to actually eat it.