Food in Xela: The Runs Down

xelawho-134-jpeg-colourWe’ve all been there. That feeling as though a ball has just dropped inside your stomach. Time slows down. Conversations around you fade out to a background lull. Buttcheeks clench. Your mind becomes focused on a single objective: Must. Get. To. A. Toilet… Now. You stand up, garble some sort of excuse and make a run for it (but not too fast, you don’t want people to know this is a life or death situation). Upon arriving to the toilet… Actually, we better stop here – we’re sure you get the picture and we notice a lot of people reading XelaWho whilst eating so we don’t want to put you off that pile of frijoles revueltos on your plate.

Much like listening to awful music on a chicken bus or getting soaked-through by a deluge of rain in the afternoon because you forgot to pack your umbrella (again), getting the shits is a fact of life for those living in Guatemala. Often the blame is laid on street food; however we here at XelaWho believe it gets an undeservedly bad rap. Nonetheless, that isn’t to say there aren’t lesser and worse offenders. So in the interest of helping our readers navigate the minefield, we present to you the XelaWho Shit List.

The Runs Down: Alert Levels

Code Green: You’re all good to go.

Code Yellow: Risk of some minor grumblings. Small chance of an eruption.

Code Orange: Medium risk of an eruption. Precautions should be taken but equally no need to freak out.

Code Red: High chance of a major eruption, most likely requiring an evacuation of the immediate area.

1. Cheveres.

Alert level: Green.

Guate’s substitute for late night kebabs, cheveres are a favourite of drunk people across the country. There’s no risk of food poisoning here, that is unless you equate being poisoned with eating mushed-up pig entrails that have been soaked in ammonia and have about as much nutritional content as gravel. But then, when you’re blind drunk is that something you really think about? We certainly don’t.

2. Elotes Locos.

Alert level: Green.

Perhaps the best street food option if you’re a veggie, these delicious corn-on-the-cobs come smothered in cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and chilli sauce. Because why only have one type of sauce when you can have four? A nice and safe option too.

3. Pupusas.

Alert level: Yellow.

A favourite of the XelaWho editors. There are some who say that the ensalada poses a  risk to your stomach, so we’ve given the delicious pupusas a code yellow on the rating scale. However, between us, the XelaWho editors must have eaten close to a thousand pupusas con todo since arriving in Guate and we haven’t once gotten sick as a result. So get stuck in, we say.

4. Papas Shucas.

Alert level: Yellow.

The so called “dirty chips” spend so long cooking in boiling hot oil that any bacteria that manages to survive would have to be a rare kind of mutant super bacteria. However, occasionally the oil isn’t changed for weeks on end, which can do some pretty nasty things to your insides.

5. Tostadas.

Alert level: Yellow.

The crispy tostadas smothered in an array of veggies are one of the few Guatemalan street-side snacks that are both delicious and healthy. The raw veggies carry a small risk, but nothing to get paranoid about.

6. Tacos and Tortas.

Alert level: Orange.

Many people eat tacos and tortas every day without any adverse effects (save the skyrocketing cholesterol). However, they can be risky, so it’s best to build up your stomach resistance a little first before you jump aboard the taco train. Top tip if you want to do your best to avoid the infamous “Taco Belly”: make sure your favourite taco chef always cooks the meat right in front of you, rather than giving you the stuff that´s been sitting on the side.

7. Berries.

Alert level: Orange.

A surprise entry on the list, but Guate’s human-loving amoebas seem to  be experts at finding their way onto berries of all kinds. It’s easy to avoid getting caught out though: just make sure you always disinfect them before eating.

8. Garnachas.

Alert level: Red.

The Russian Roulette of street food in Guatemala, the greasy garnachas practically make their reputation on their ability to turn your insides inside-out. They’re a great tool for weight loss though, if you can’t be bothered with dieting.

Ultimately, however, you can get an upset stomach from pretty much anything in Guatemala, whether it’s brushing your teeth in the morning or simply touching an infected surface. So once you resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to get the shits at some point during your stay here no matter how careful you are, you can put your street food paranoia firmly behind you and get in line for a hot and tasty pupusa. See you there for pupusa no. 1001.

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