Culinary Journeys In Asia

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Collette will give travelers a chance to cook with chefs at the Jinsong Cooking School.
Collette will give travelers a chance to cook with chefs at the Jinsong Cooking School in Beijing.

a taste of china
Food for Thought: “When designing our itineraries, Collette focuses heavily on the local experiences and immersions,” says Jaclyn Leibl-Cote, director of strategic product, Collette. “Food is top of the list as we dive into regions and cities. We always want to have popular local meals, as people are traveling to destinations to learn, and food is an important piece of that.

“We like to visit local markets, learn about the spices and foods in different regions, and then go back and taste some of the creations,” points out Leibl-Cote. “Moving into the 2015 season, most meals are outside of the hotels and in local restaurants. This is a huge differentiator to many operators, but at Collette we feel this is an important piece to creating great experiences and getting our guests connecting with the locals.”

Tasty Tours: On the 9-day Spotlight on Beijing tour (starting at $999 pp), travelers’ taste buds will be awakened with a dim sum lunch one day and hand-pulled Beijing noodles on another; guests will also learn the art of dumpling-making at the home of a local living in a hutong. If cooking lessons are what your clients seek, Collette is also featuring the option to visit the Jinsong Cooking School ($60 for four hours). With this option, travelers can stroll through a local market before attending a cooking demonstration at the school to learn about the history and flavors of Chinese cuisine. The tour also includes stops at the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, with hotel accommodations at Traders Hotel, Beijing. There is also the 14-day Best of China tour ($1,999 pp) offering guests a Peking duck and Mongolian barbecue; an indulging 20-course Xian dumpling banquet; and a traditional rice noodle lunch.

real food adventures
Food for Thought: “Intrepid launched its first dedicated range of food trips in January 2013,” says Erica Kritikides, the food product manager at Intrepid Travel. “Starting with just 10 itineraries showcasing some of the most exciting and iconic foodie destinations around the world, the range has quickly increased to nearly 20 trips and has proved to be one of the most successful new product launched in Intrepid’s 25-year history.

“We have focused on making our food trips affordable and accessible,” she adds. “We use two- and three-star accommodations, lots of local transport, which often offers some fantastic food experiences, and have a mixture of included and optional meals.”

“All trip leaders on Intrepid’s Food Adventures are not only passionate and knowledgeable foodies but are also locals, which is a huge edge when it comes to having the inside scoop on the best local restaurants, bars and street food,” says Kritikides.

Tasty Tours: Intrepid’s Food Adventure tours include all the cultural highlights of a destination, as well as hands-on cooking classes, street food tours, beverage tastings, and visits to local markets. Intrepid’s food tours come in three different packages: Real Food Adventures, for travelers who want to experience the cultural highlights of a country and its local cuisine; Bite-size Breaks, 3-day, city-based tours ideal for a stopover or extension to a longer trip; and 3- to 4-hour Urban Appetisers, which feature walking food tours and home-cooking experiences. The 12-day Real Food Adventure–Sri Lanka (starting at $1,675 pp) leads travelers from Negombo to Colombo—a circular tour around the tiny island to experience the best of its local cuisine and culinary influences. Highlights include mastering a traditional hoppers recipe; tea tasting at a Sri Lankan tea plantation; a tour to a fragrant spice plantation; and savoring sweets and traditional desserts on a visit to a Sinhalese family in Mirrissa.

custom-made culinary trips
Food for Thought: “We have always incorporated culinary experiences in Asia, but over time we have certainly expanded and diversified the types of culinary experiences we offer,” says Kirsten Louy-Nasty, CEO, Asia Transpacific Journeys. “Still, the foundation remains the same—we seek to add greater cultural understanding and depth to our travelers’ itineraries through culinary-based programs.

“We’ve found that the nuances of cuisine are so intertwined with Asian tradition and history that culinary experiences are a natural part of our itineraries. Because Asia Transpacific Journeys specializes in custom journeys—itineraries built from scratch around our travelers’ unique travel styles and interests—we have the flexibility to offer a wide range of culinary experiences to suit all sorts of adventurers. Depending on one’s interests, we can arrange everything from hikes through Kerala’s fragrant spice plantations, to chef-led street-food tours of Asia’s gourmet metropolises, to experiential cooking classes in some of Asia’s top restaurants to personal lessons and meals in local family homes all over the continent. Our offers are varied, sophisticated and flexible enough to fit into virtually any itinerary.”

Tasty Tours: Because Asia Transpacific Journeys creates custom-made itineraries for its clients, each tour is exclusive and can cater to your clients’ needs. Louy-Nasty shared a few culinary experiences the operator can put together while clients are in Thailand or Vietnam. The Traditional Thai Flavors, Bangkok experience gives travelers a chance to meet a native who will be the group’s cooking instructor. Some activities include visiting a neighborhood market to pick fresh ingredients used in Thai dishes, and getting a crash course in cooking Thai food in the kitchen; the experience also helps travelers take what they’ve learned to make their own curry paste at home. The Local Cooking Class, Hoi An experience will have guests meet up with an owner of a local restaurant to learn the art of cooking authentic Vietnamese courses, like steamed fish in banana leaf with vegetables and spices. Asia Transpacific Journeys’ custom tours include lodging, a private guide and driver; the starting rates are $350 pp, per day, land-only.

Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue archive):
China’s Got it Going On (March 2015) 

contact information
Asia Transpacific Journeys: (800) 642-2742; asiatranspacific.com
Collette: (800) 340-5158; gocollette.com
Intrepid Travel: (800) 970-7299; intrepidtravel.com