The Horrors of International Food Abroad

Warning: this post contains pretty disgusting food pictures.

Most world travelers love a great variety of foods from across the globe, and this is often our downfall. It’s very hard to be satisfied when the dish you’re craving is half the world away.

Sitting here in Mexico, for example, I have all the tacos in the world at my disposal yet I can’t help craving a savory bowl of pho or a basket of steamed dumplings. I pay too much for tiny tubs of hummus and sub par sushi because I just can’t help myself. Conversely, when I lived in China and had access to the most amazing street food in the world, I found myself dreaming of pizza and well, Mexican food.

It’s these incongruous cravings that lead to some really poor decision making when it comes to food. Like ordering pad thai in Mexico (mistake), a cheese plate in China (mistake) or a quesadilla in England (big mistake… peas and carrots!).

A couple of weeks ago I asked a few of my blogger friends what the worst international meal they’ve had abroad was. They sent me some truly horrifying pictures and stories.

So let’s dive right in. Hope you’re not hungry:

Pizzas

Kristiansand, Norway – This was supposed to be a cheese pizza but came out with corn and Doritos on top in edition to cheese. It wasn’t horrible per say, but it wasn’t good either.- Kelly Paras, FlipFlop Caravan
Ekaterinburg, Russia – Pepperoni pizza? It had little strips of bacon (the pink stuff) and then a lattice-work of shredded potato. And because it’s Russia, it had to be topped with dill and sour cream. Again, not horrible, but one of the weirdest flavor combos I’ve had on a pizza.- Kelly Paras

Santiago, Chile-   I figured I’d send you what a place in Santiago considered a “pizza.” Just for reference… it was the size of a bagel… – Tony Rulli, LandingStanding

Mexican Food

By far the worst offender.

2 tacos in Irkutsk, Russia, with a side of tartar sauce. The taco shells themselves tasked like fried wontons and the so-called chicken inside them was unrecognizable.- Katie Aune

Perm, Russia – Mexican food gone bad. The nacho cheese sauce poured on top of what was supposed to be an enchilada was cold and literally formed a hard crust. Inside was chopped up hot dogs, carrots and something that was trying to be refried beans. Probably the single most disgusting thing I ate in Russia.- Kelly Paras

As you know, it can be near impossible to find good Mexican food in Asia. In Hong Kong, we have maybe 10 places that serve anything resembling Mexican food, so we’ve given most all of them a go. The worst by far though, was when we ordered nachos at one place in particular.

The server brought us a plate of Doritos, that had been burnt, with some melted cheese on top. It was horrific! And the first thing that made me get sick in Asia! – Beth Williams, BesuDesu Abroad

This dish from Freiburg Germany is allegedly tacos. You can read about Ali’s horrific experiences with Mexican food in Germany on her site.

Etc.

HCMC, Vietnam- The time I realised I should have stuck with pho instead of treating myself to steak on a date night. Yep, that’s strips of meat wrapped around raw carrot sticks. Yum- Lauren Juliff, Never Ending Footsteps

We went to a small restaurant in Ancient Corinth, Greece. It was one of those awkward restaurant moments when you sort of want to leave, but have already committed by sitting down at a table. In the end we ordered “lasagna.” What we got didn’t have lasagna sheets but was instead made with macaroni!- Jade Johnson, Our Oyster

a Thai take on a full English breakfast, safe to say I’ve never seen salad served with an English breakfast and the bacon was well…ham that was incredibly bad tasting. This can be found in Bangkok at Sivali Place, other than that the hash browns were pretty good!- Sally, Traveling Sally.

Sometimes you just want McDonalds when abroad. Sometimes you are disappointed to find out that a McDonalds doesn’t actually exist in the country, and a fake knock-off that imitates everything about the Golden Arches exists in its place. This is the Albanian version of McDonalds, and tastes just as bad as you would expect from a description like this. But still, there was something quite familiar about it…- Jeremy Jones, Living the Dream RTW

What about you, do you have a horrific international food tale? Send me your pictures and I’ll post them in an upcoming post! Steph(@) Twenty-SomethingTravel.com

41 thoughts on “The Horrors of International Food Abroad”

  1. hahahah these are great!! I’ve had my fair share of interesting pizza’s, Korea just loves to throw things on pizza that shouldn’t be there! Also Mexican is almost always a failure, I’ve had so many failed varieties of ‘nachos’ that I’ve lost count, which is really sad considering the basics are just chips and cheese 🙁 That Doritoe concoction is atrocious though. The even worse part is that you always have to pay more for the ‘western version’ of something, I need to remember even when those craving hit or I see a [falsely advertised] delicious looking mexican meal or pizza I should just walk away. Good news for me though that one of my go to comfort foods is french fries – those are actually pretty hard to screw up.

  2. Living in 2nd-tier Chinese cities has made me very wary of any forms of international food. I’ve had tomato sauce poured on top of an omelet and served with a quesadilla, pizza topped with popcorn chicken and corn with a sweet potato crust (not actually that bad!), and disgusting attempts at sushi and kimchi. The worst was probably fried squid at a Korean restaurant in Harbin; it was mushy, chewy and cold! The only time I’ve ever been hospitalized with food poisoning was from a bacon cheeseburger at a decently-nice restaurant. Thankfully, I’m lucky to have a semi-decent Mexican restaurant in Ningbo. Super random, but the enchiladas are good and they have great margaritas!

    1. After spending some time in China myself I can definitely believe this! We stuck mostly to Chinese food but did eat a couple of very odd pizzas.

  3. Great Rift Valley, Kenya- along the Ugandan border. Mu parents were running a clinic at a mission station there and I was visiting for a few months. A local tribesman invited us to his hut to dine with his family after my mother assisted his wife in a particularly hard child birth. To refuse the invitation would have been a great insult. We were promised a dinner of goat stew and flat bread. We arrived at the hut- a mud hut (well, more cow dung that mud). Seating was on blankets on the ground and the stew was cooking in a pot of questionable cleanliness over a fire made from dried dung. To my surprise, although very spicy, the stew was probably the best I had ever had! As we were leaving, my father heard a “b-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ah!” coming from behind the hut and peeked around back. There was the goat munching away on a pile of straw. My father looked around, scratched his head and said “Where’s the dog?” Yup. We had Fido for dinner.

  4. If you guys know who Andrew Zimmern is, that guy who makes a living by eating disgusting food (I’m a huuuuge fan BTW), I’m sure that he won’t last from half of the stuff featured above.

  5. My tummy is not very friendly when it comes to foreign food especially with those foreign country that uses too much spice, and it is such a waste because I want to be adventurous when it comes to food as well. I usually stick to those that I am familiar with.

  6. Spot on – food cravings while on the road are hilarious. You always want what you can’t have! We’re almost always disappointed after succumbing to paying more for worse non-local grub. Although McDonalds is tried and true when getting that western craving!

    1. To say the truth… of course this is not Lasagna, and nobody in Greece would call this Lasagna… it is called Pastitsio, and is a greek national food. By the way, it is not too awful looking for a Pastitisio. The problem with food on travels are our expectations and our strange demands in cultures that have compleately other food. I always was dissapointed of spaghetti plates in Greece, because I had already tasted Pasta in Italy. So I’m never asking for Pasta in greek taverns, but do the dish only at home by myself, as I like it. In most of the plates above I recognize the creative wish of the cook to satisfy the strange appetites of his customers. My most funny experience has been in France, where I by mistake ordered a “jus de pomme de terre” instead of “jus de pomme” (Potato juice instead of Apple juice). The guy asked again but I insisted in “Potato juice”. So what shoul the poor guy do: He served me an interesting drink that looked like potatojuice, must have been something with anise. I tasted it and it was very interesting.

  7. HONG KONG

    Pizza hut serves “american pizza” with corn on it! and they gave us ketchup to dip or breadsticks in…

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