Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Thoughts on Delhi-Belly and how to avoid it

"How can I avoid Delhi Belly?"

I get asked this question very regularly, so I thought I'd post a reply here.

Travellers get stomach upsets in India due to multiple reasons. The primary reason is of course hygiene, or rather, the lack of it.

If you're eating at an upscale restaurant or a five-star hotel, you can be more or less sure that the food is hygenic and the ingredients are fresh. Even in mid-range restaurants, there are lots of places which are very popular and where the food turnaround is quick.  If you're on a driving tour, your driver will know of such places. They are usually places where lots of tourists go, and where the drivers are often offered free meals.
Restaurant near Agra highway, nothing fancy, but good food, our driver took us.
The street stalls are definitely iffy. Avoiding street food is a good idea, although that usually means missing out on some of the best food in the country. If you want to try street food, then eating at places where the food is fresh, where it is cooked right before serving, is a good idea. Many stalls often offer freshly cooked or fried food, but their eating utensils and the water they use to wash them in are questionable. If you're just eating a freshly deep-fried samosa off a piece of paper, you will actually be ok, but eat a little, and don't gorge whole platefuls. 
Typical stall in Old Delhi - sellling pakoras, samosas, jalebis, etc.
Eating vegetarian is an even better idea, especially if you are on a budget, because at cheaper non-vegetarian stalls, there is usually no refrigeration and the quality of the fish and meat is questionable.

The second (and bigger) reason why people get stomach upsets is the nature of the food in restaurants. Indian food tends to have a complex set of spices, and while this makes it delizioso :) :) it also makes it difficult for your stomach.
Spices, chutneys and pickles at Paranthewali Galli
When I travel in Rajasthan, I always get stomach upsets because the masalas and cooking techniques of Rajasthani food are different from what I use at home. Also restaurant food tends to be more greasy and buttery than the light food we eat at home. The way to handle this is to try and mix familiar and unfamiliar foods in your trip. For foreigners visiting India, I would recommend eating Western breakfasts and dinners, and Indian lunches (while sightseeing). This gives your digestive system the ability to handle things well. Another major secret is yoghurt. Indians drink lots of lassi, and eat lots of yoghurt. This keeps our internals in good order.
The famous lassi at Mishrilal, Jodhpur
Some other do's and don't: Stick to bottled water. Avoid fresh juices from street stalls. Avoid salads that have been in the open too long. Stay in places where the food is of good quality. Bring hand sanitizer. That's about it. Beyond this, you have to trust to luck!

8 comments:

John Karolczuk Bowman said...

On my first trip to India I learned one of your lessons - go veggie. Not only was my tummy - mostly - content but I discovered the delicious varieties of dahl.

Peenuts said...

The first photo is so yummy..i just couldnt get past adoring it :)

Raj said...

When you are in Old Delhi, you just can't miss the food there.

Akki said...

ohhh!! I have fallen sick so many times that I dont even remember now, still I haven't stopped trying out new places and food. I have completed my 6 years in Delhi today, something I just feel have written too: http://30akki.blogspot.com/2014/05/delhi-6.html

Delhi Travel Agency said...

enjoyed reading your blog...

Rahul sharma said...

Hey nice experience about Delhi rajasthan and you were talking about rajasthan food as like your home that's good and After reading your blog i feel good..

Anita Duggal said...

Your blog is very informative and gracefully
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Restaurants in Delhi NCR| UrbanRestro said...

The food looks very delicious. Delhi is filled with restaurants and food joints offering North Indian Cuisine. Delhi also has many Restaurants that serve International Cuisines.