Safe eating abroad

illustration by mark stivers

I just arrived back from touring—and eating—my way through China. I had butter tea and stir-fried yak over naan in Tibet, sweetened pork in Beijing, fried shrimp tossed with chilies along the Yangtze, date soup in Xi’an, and tons of other amazing food—both from restaurants and from many different street vendors. And I did not get sick once. I think we all fear accidentally invoking Montezuma’s Revenge when we eat on our travels. When your stomach’s not used to local biological contaminants, there’s always the chance of screwing up your system and spending your vacation in bed.

So eat wisely. Pass up any recently washed fruits or vegetables, as even in the finest First World countries there’s always a chance that the water they were washed in or grew with may not agree with you. The exception is soup; the water has been boiled. Cooked veggies and fruits are usually a win. Fish is fine if you know the water it came from was fine, but be sure it’s been cooked thoroughly. Meat is usually cooked to well-done in many countries outside the U.S., but if in doubt, go with the nearest carbs you can find.