If high crime, risk of terror attacks, and political riots are not stopping you from craving new, thrilling food adventures, continue browsing through our countdown of the 15 most dangerous food destinations.
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From high-end contemporary Brazilian cookeries like D.O.M — recently voted as the seventh-best restaurant in the world— to bargain street foods, the buzzing city of São Paulo is undoubtedly Brazil’s top food destination. Helena Rizzo, who was voted asLatin America’s best female chef by Restaurant Magazine, also has her restaurant Mani here. The downside: Brazil’s murder rate is more than four times higher than that of the United States, and crime is high. The U.S State Department also reports that in recent years, armed groups in São Paulo have been targeting restaurants especially, robbing customers during the peak business hours.
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The famous "Gatsby sandwich" is a soft, foot-long roll stuffed with meat or fish, french fries (aka "hot chips"), and a spicy sauce. While this over-the-top street food might just be worth traveling for, use some extra caution: New reports from the U.S Embassy list South Africa’s capital as a "critical crime threat spot," where violent crimes such as armed robbery, car-jacking, and mugging still are common. But if traveling to Cape Town, try The Test Kitchen, Luke Dale-Roberts' restaurant serving eclectic-international cuisine. Listed as "one to watch" on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list by San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, this eatery serves standout dishes such as plum-cured foie gras, morel-glazed sweet breads, and duck liver and morel "royal" with onions.
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Ranked as the 10th most dangerous country in Africa, Ethiopia is plagued by violent robberies and large landmine plots, and the capital Addis Ababa has been the site of terrorist bombings. Despite the risks, Ethiopia’s renowned cuisine is not to be missed. The national dish called wat is a spicy stew accompanied by injera, a large pancake-like bread made of teff flour and water. Teff is unique to the country, grown only on the Ethiopian highlands. The main ingredients in wat vary, and can be anything from chicken, beef, or lamb to vegetables, lentils, and ground split peas. According to The New York Times writer Danielle Pergament, a good place to try traditional injera in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, is the restaurant Habesha, a traditional hut with colorful ceiling murals. The specialty of the house here is injera with mixed-vegetable wat.
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Kashmir Region, India/Pakistan
Split between India and Pakistan, the Kashmir region has become the center of protests, and riots and bombings are not uncommon. Terrorist groups are known to operate in the state, and foreigners can easily be targets of crime and violence. When it comes to food, the split between India and Pakistan has led to the creation of a unique regional cuisine, influenced by the best flavors from both regions. Mutton, meat from a mature sheep, is the most common ingredient, on which more than 30 dishes are based. Yogurt, oil, and spices, such as cardamom and anise seed, are typically incorporated in the different stews, served with rice. The spicy potato dish dum aloo is a popular vegetarian dish. According to an article published by Condé Nast Traveller, Ahdoos and Mughal Durbar are two "good places to sample authentic Kashmiri food" in Srinagar, one of the main cities in the Indian region of Kashmir.
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The great pyramids might be the main tourist attraction in Egypt, but the rich history and mix of cultures has also made Egypt a real culinary gem. A good example of the unique dishes from multicultural origins is the national dish koshary — a mix of pasta, tomato sauce, lentils, rice, onion, and chickpeas. For the best koshary, Renaissance Hotels "local expert" Salah Nasr recommends Tarek Koshary in Cairo. Since 1950, this place has been serving koshary to locals and tourists alike, and according to Nasr, if asking any local where to get koshary, "this is where you will end up." Cairo is also home of the Oasis food court, which was announced as the largest food court in the world by Guinness World Records in 2011. But while enjoying the variety of food, be cautious. After the 2011 revolution, reports warn of an increase in crimes and sexual assault, as well as the always lingering chance of political protests and demonstrations.
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Visiting northern regions of Mexico — outside major tourist areas — might be risky. The U.S State Department reports heavy drug-trafficking activity, including daytime gun battles, car-jackings, and kidnappings. But two of the "black-listed" regions — Chihuahua and Sonora — are home to some distinctive native dishes. Sonora is the proud home of the agave-based liquor Bacanora, and Chihuahua’s regional cuisine gets its unique touch from dehydrating products prior to cooking. Chihuahua’s restaurantLa Casa de los Milagros is located in a beautiful, 110-year-old mansion with an airy courtyard, and the menu features original antojitos (Mexican snacks), salads, and mains featuring steak and chicken. What more? Legend has it that Pancho Villa used to visit the place, and there is often live music in the evening. Another top restaurant, Los Cinco Panes, was awarded with TripAdvisor's "certificate of excellence" in 2013, serving upscale Italian-inspired cuisine.
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Jamaican cuisine has been influenced by various cultures throughout the years, but still has several distinctive dishes of its own, like "jerk" pork or chicken, which is the country’s national dish. "Jerk," a spice mix made from the spicy Scotch bonnet pepper, is a key ingredient in Jamaican cooking. Locally caught fish and seafood are other ingredients Jamaican dishes often build around. The city of Kingston is also home to some excellent restaurants, including Norma’s on the Terrace, opened by local culinary star Norma Shirley, who passed away at the age of 72 in 2010. Serving a seasonal menu of Jamaican-fusion dishes such as red snapper encrusted in herbs, served with a thyme-and-caper sauce, the restaurant was named as one of the 60 best new restaurants in the world in 2000 by Condé Nast Traveler. Though Jamaica is a good destination for travelers looking for good food, and a popular tourist destination in general, the U.S. Department of State advices visitors to be cautious, as crime still is a serious problem here, particularly in Kingston, Montego Bay, and other major tourist areas.
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Venezuela might have a bad reputation as one of the top five of countries in the world with a high murder rate, with 21,692 homicides reported in 2012, but dark crimes aside, Venezuela is a thrill for travelers seeing the world food-first: Locally grown, harvested, and roasted coffee and homemade arepas — a traditional, pocket-shaped cornbread — stuffed with everything from cheese to meat, are just a few of the great foods offered. As it's a big metropolitan city, the capital Caracas offers a great variety of both budget-friendly and upscale food options. Chef Carlos Garcia’s modern-yet-traditional Venezuelan restaurant Alto is listed as one of the "50 best restaurants in Latin America." With an emphasis on simple cooking, his menu includes dishes such as home-cured "ham" or tuna with goat’s cheese snow and snapper roe with sweet coconut and "pastel de chucho."
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Though the Iraq war that started in 2003 has officially ended, the U.S Department of State reports that some violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist, and U.S. citizens visiting Iraq are still at risk for kidnapping. Still, if visiting Iraq, the cuisine is definitely worth trying. Strongly influenced by the cuisine in neighboring countries Iran and Turkey, common foods in Iraq are beef and lamb dishes, such as kebabs, as well as stuffed vegetables, and filo-dough pastries. Iraqi Touch in the city of Erbil serves homemade Iraqi food in a "unique and modern environment," showcasing the best of Iraq’s classic cuisine with menu items such as beef borek — ground beef stuffed in filo dough — and different gravies served with rice, such as curry potato gravy.
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The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan warns U.S. citizens against travel to Afghanistan, as the risk of kidnapping and terror attacks still remains high. But when it comes to food, Afghanistan has plenty of flavorful dishes to offer. The country is known for its variety of kebabs and pulao — rice cooked with meat, chicken, or vegetables. In the Bamiyan region, the main bazaar in Shahr-e Nau, has a good variety of food vendors offering traditional cuisine such as kebabs, pulao, and the beef and bean soup shorwa.
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At the moment, the U.S. State Department advises travelers not to visit Lebanon, as the risk of "spontaneous upsurge in violence remains." But while the potential dangers of traveling there are not to be taken lightly, neither are the culinary temptations that the country has to offer. Lebanese food is often considered the most familiar Middle Eastern cuisine, with traditional dishes such as falafel and shawarma sold in countries around the world. But in the capital, Beirut, a wide range of upscale restaurants have made the city a sought-out destination for fine dining and a buzzing nightlife. At Lux, accessory designer and restaurateur Johnny Farah serves Mediterranean fare, and ingredients are harvested at his own organic farm in the Lebanese mountains. And after establishing locations in London and Paris, Franco-North AfricanMomo opened in Beirut, serving modern and elegant versions of mezze; the restaurant also arranges popular events such as dance parties at night.
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With ongoing bombings and terror attacks, the U.S. State Department recommends avoiding all travel to Somalia. However, the capital Mogadishu had been going through a significant change toward becoming a safer travel destination, with newtop restaurants opening up in the city, a recent backlash indicated that the terror threat is still present. A car bomb that killed 18 people in the capital also destroyed one of the new restaurants, opened by native restaurateur Ahmed Jama. Jama had opened his restaurantThe Village in an effort to showcase the great cuisine and culture of his home country, serving traditional Somali dishes.
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Côte D’Ivoire is yet another country stricken by civil war and political unrest, and its capital, Abidjan, is recognized as the third most dangerous city in the world. Street crime, robbery, and car-jackings are common here. But when it comes to finding a taste of traditional local cuisine, the country has plenty to offer. Good places to sample the food are maquis, outdoor markets unique to Côte d'Ivoire. To be considered a maquis, the restaurant must sell braised food — commonly chicken or fish, served with onions and tomatoes. Cara Waterfall, writer of the blog bellejournal, recommends a maquis called Chez Rokia, where the owner, a woman called Rokia, serves people cold beer and dishes such as poulet braise, grilled chicken marinated in Dijon mustard and garlic.
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You should really not be in Yemen, even on a visit. The U.S State Department is clear with the message, as terrorist activities and civil unrest have pushed the security threat level to "extremely high." But for daredevils, Yemen can also provide plenty of unique food experiences, distinct from the more commonly known Middle Eastern flavors. Simple stews and breads might not sound intriguing, but spices such as ginger, cardamom, and aniseed give Yemeni food a unique aromatic touch. Each region has a slightly different version of the national dish, saltah, a meat stew with chiles, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, and usually mixed with potatoes, scrambled eggs, or even rice. Chicken, goat, and fish are other typical proteins, and dairy products, such as butter and cheese, are rarely used. The capital, Sana’a, is home to several restaurants, from high-end to budget eats. Freelance journalist Adam Baron, based in Sana’a, recommends Matam Taizfor the peculiar Yemeni specialty aseed — a doughy dumpling of fish meal, covered in gravy.
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With an ongoing civil war, violence, and threat of terror attacks and bombings, visiting Syria is highly dangerous, and should be avoided. But despite the current unrest, Syria is still famed for its culture and cuisine, and in 2007 the capital, Aleppo, was awarded with a cultural gastronomy prize by the International Academy of Gastronomy in Paris. The regional cuisine blends Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, and includes many varieties of kebab Halabi, or spiced kebab, traditional mezze dishes such as hummus and baba ghanoush, and za'atar, a dried herb and spice mixture, often eaten by dipping it with bread in olive oil. According to Khaled Yacoub Oweis, writing for Reuters, the best place to enjoy za'atar is restaurant Qubrusi in Aleppo, which "is a favorite among locals." Another restaurant well worth a visit is Beit Sissi, rated as "Aleppo’s finest" by Lonely Planet. Located in a restored house from the 17th century, the restaurant servers French and Syrian cuisine, including items such as sujuk, spicy pork sausage rolled in bread, and ratatouille.
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A high murder rate, common kidnappings, and violent riots are probably not things that anyone wishes to see at the top of a travel description. But what if you were to find out that along with the potential risk of danger, these destinations could provide you with exceptional local eats? Could the quest for finding new culinary adventures make you overcome the fear of hazardous situations?
The unfortunate truth is that places with some of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, historic sights, and — yes— exceptional food specialties have become shadowed by political unrest and street violence. But the adventurous traveler, those with incurable desires to go off the beaten path, who brave danger to seek truths, fight for justice, or just thrill-seek — will usually be the first to tell you that their culinary discoveries, be they roadside stands or meals shared by those less fortunate, are often better, or at least more memorable than any five-star experience you could pay for at home. Clearly, the right use of caution is essential, and nobody is suggesting you risk personal safety for food, or take lightly the political, social, military, and economic issues and natural disasters being faced in "danger zones." But should you be curious, or find yourself in one of these places, consider that you just may find yourself stumbling across if not the best, perhaps some of the most underrated food in the world.
The numerous delicacies that await the daring traveler include anything from dinner at a restaurant recently voted as the sixth-best in the world to a local sandwich specialty stuffed with french fries, and exceptional mezze. You might also find yourself tasting locally produced wine in the most unexpected of places, or hot chocolate with melted cheese (yes, really).
In order to find a solution to the dilemma of "to go or not to go," we decided to dig deeper into the facts and figures on the safety of some of the world's most dangerous but gastronomically alluring places. To compile our list of the 15 most dangerous food destinations, we used reports from the U.S. State Department as our main source, and advise anybody planning to visit a destination in these "culinary danger zones" to always look out for the most recent warnings and advisories before your trip.
Check out the slideshow above for the 15 most dangerous destinations for foodies.