If the careful and considered flavour combination of ginger, garlic, coriander, chilli and lime is enough to make your mouth water, it’s to Indochina that you must turn your sights to for a culinary break. Focus on food and take advantage of the number of cooking courses and tours popping up all over South East Asia. Recent trends in travel have seen people on the hunt for an authentic holiday experience that allows an outside-the-tourist-bubble look at their chosen destination. Look then, to expand on your foodie knowledge and take a gastronomic taste trip east.
Thai cuisine best embodies the diversity of dishes on offer in the Indochina region. Flanked by Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, Thailand has taken the very best of all its neighbours’ dinners for an eclectic food infusion. Balancing sweet, sour, salty and acidic flavours, Thai cuisine is a chaotic combo of disparate ingredients, all somehow managing to meld together to form unified dishes that best embody the geographical location and cultural heritage of a region.
Experiential holidays are becoming increasingly popular for the die-hard foodies that want to take a little of their trip home with them. Head to the capital of Bangkok and immerse yourself in the simmering scene there. The South of Thailand is heavily influenced by Indonesian and Malaysian cooking. Think vibrant coconut milk curries and plenty of turmeric. Take a trip around the city and explore the markets and top restaurants for an insight into the local produce and flavours before learning to cook your favourite dishes first-hand at one of a number of expert cooking schools.
Further immersive experiences are making themselves available to travellers hoping to squeeze a little more out of their trip. Foodies are turning to home stays and to specialist home-dining sites for more authentic gastronomical insights. If it’s a sense of place, atmosphere and an understanding of culture and heritage that you’re looking for, it’s these unique experiences you should take a look into.
Jumping on the culinary tour bandwagon are Vietnam (check out Saigon and Da Nang tours), Cambodia and Malaysia. Dishes vary between these regions so to tell your Bánh Xèo from your Bahn Chao, it’s well-worth exploring the options available here too. Many tours offer a trip around a region followed by a cooking master-class in which you prepare your own meals. For many modern travellers, having your meal cooked for you will no longer suffice. As the old adage goes, it’s about the journey, not the destination...