Eternal food, you will have understood it, gastronomy is very often my first and last contact with the local culture during a trip. It is also my way of starting a dialogue with the city I visit, an introduction at its own pace, its flavours, its smells, etc. For me, leaving without having seen the local market is like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.
In Southeast Asia, I have accumulated visits to markets, typical roadside restaurants and small street kiosks, but I also wanted to take courses to get to know the ingredients and secrets of chefs from each country better, in order to bring back what I could for eventual nostalgic evenings.
Here is a brief summary of these cooking courses or specific culinary experiences so that you can also add them to your list of essentials:
Food Tour Malaysia – Off the Eaten Track – Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian cuisine is quite complex, because it includes so many influences (Chinese, Indian, Malay). It is not so easy to understand, so a guided tour is a good way to tame it and especially not to miss any of its little secrets. For four hours, our guide did not stop presenting us with real delicacies, until we could no longer! We made three meal stops (one for each type of food) and one for dessert in a local market. My favourite: the crisp Indian cones! I also loved the fact that we ate in places far from the tourist centres.
Cookery Magic – Singapore
When you arrive at Ruqxana, a few minutes from the city centre, you enter a little visited area of Singapore, very residential. His house is sublime and his outdoor kitchen in the courtyard is furnished as if it were a professional’s house. I loved the cooking class, but also the cultural explanations and the tasting of the meal we had just prepared.
Malay, Indonesian and Chinese influences are very present in Singapore’s cuisine and we have chosen to cook the typical dish of NasiLemak, which consists of spicy coconut rice, sambal (chilli-based condiment), fried fish and sautéed vegetables.
I presented three culinary options in the Top 5 article to be done in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Here is a summary of what I have tested:
River Garden StreetFood Tour – Siem Reap
I went on a culinary tour in the evening as the sun was setting on Siem Reap. For more than two hours, we toured the small local markets in tuk-tuk. The guide introduced us to many specialities and we did some shopping which we then enjoyed at the hotel.
Cooks in Tuk Tuks – Siem Reap
Nearby the River Garden Hotel is a small market that we visited with the Khmer chef-guide, who then taught us the basics of local cuisine in almost perfect English. On the menu: an astonishing banana flower salad, a fish amok (a must!) and a creamy dessert. More than three hours followed by a tasting of your mixtures. You can then relax by the pool of the cottage in a very pretty garden.
Siem Reap Street Food By Night – Siem Reap
If you like to be accompanied in the discovery, this culinary tour will please you. Once again aboard a famous tuk-tuk, we left the centre to discover places that tourists don’t usually go to. I learned a lot about local culinary customs and was able to taste dishes that I simply would not have had the courage to order if I had been alone. To recommend! Will you dare to try the roasted tarantulas?
What you absolutely must learn here: pad thai, curry and spicy pomelo salad! I have already listed the different courses taken in this classic country in the article Thailand, a food paradise that I invite you to consult! There are also several other gourmet options for the Land of Smiles.
Back of the Bike Tours – Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)
I really enjoyed this tour of discovering Vietnamese cuisine, not to mention the fact that the motorcycle ride is in itself an epic journey when you are in Saigon! Of all the dozens of bites tried, I would say that Bo Bia Ngot changed my life! Okay, I’m exaggerating, but this little dessert is actually a little treat made with thin pancakes, a honeycomb leaf and coconuts that are rolled together.
In every city in the world, I try to find culinary experiences of all kinds and I can tell you that Asia is PERFECT for that. There are cooking classes, market visits and meals at the inhabitants’ homes at all prices, for all tastes and of all kinds!