From exquisite sashimi in Tokyo to succulent street food in Singapore; a steaming bowl of pho in Vietnam to pungent kimchi creations in South Korea – the variety of delectable cuisines in Asia is one of the great joys of traveling there. Market visits and cooking classes are itinerary staples for Remote Lands. We also love the contrast of high and low dining – from a $500 per head Michelin three-star Kyoto kitchen to a gritty hawker center in Kuala Lumpur, the delights of Asia’s cuisine are an unending parade.
Though “Chinese food” in the West has largely taken on a fast-food like conformity, this belies the great diversity and regional variation in authentic Chinese cuisine, which is anything but uniform. The Cantonese focus on the small savory dishes of dim sum is one of the world’s great dining traditions, while the Sichuan penchant for boldly spiced and pungent plates is another delight. “High and low” options abound, from the posh perch of M on the Bund in Shanghai to the grungy confines of Beijing’s Liqun and its famed Peking duck. Remote Lands also highly recommends the spiced lamb and tomato-centric dishes of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority.
Indian cuisine is known internationally for its rich combinations of spices, a cultural legacy growing from the region’s wealth of ingredients, ancient trade relations, and the simple age-old needs of preservation. These mixtures of chili powder, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, ginger, garlic, coriander, and more combine to yield delights like masala, korma, vindaloo and countless curry variations. Pinnacles of traditional Indian cuisine, such as Varq and Bukhara, can be found in the country’s five-star hotels, but savvy travelers also know not to overlook cutting-edge fusion kitchens like Mumbai’s Indigo.
Japan is a foodie’s heaven. Their gourmet kaiseki dining is one of the great culinary art forms, with Tokyo boasting the most Michelin-starred restaurants of any city in the world. Freshly filleted sashimi, straight from the cornucopia of Tsukiji wholesale market; steaming bowls of explosively flavored ramen; magnificently marbled wagyu beef, or handmade silken tofu – these are just some of the delights that await. For visitors looking to try their own hand at some native cooking, sushi-making and soba-making classes are popular experiences.
Today’s South Korea is ultra-modern and cosmopolitan, but its humble agricultural roots are still represented in traditional porridges, noodles, rice dishes, and kimchi, the nationally ubiquitous fermented vegetable dish. While the latter is no doubt Korea’s signature staple, in recent years Korean barbecue, gimbap (seaweed and rice rolls), bibimbap (sautéed vegetables and chili paste over rice) and bulgogi (grilled marinated beef or pork) have gained international traction as well. All can be found at pojangmacha, tented street food carts, while a more refined experience awaits at Seoul’s Sanchon restaurant, founded by a former Buddhist monk.
Not unlike Chinese food, Thai food in the West has been somewhat streamlined into predictable palate pleasers – which only makes eating in Thailand more of a revelation. Truly one of the world’s great cuisines, Thai dishes boldly marry mint, basil, cilantro, lemongrass, tamarind, turmeric, peanut, chiles and more in a mouth-watering and complex balance of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. A market visit plus cooking class combo is great a great activity for couples or families of all ages. Chef David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok has quickly ascended the ranks of Asia’s best restaurants, but street food from the capital to Chiang Mai is a must-try as well.
Vietnamese cuisine embodies a search for balance – not only among tastes but also between French and Indochinese culinary traditions. Aromatic mints, corianders and lemon grass mingle with black pepper, garlic, chilies, star anise, and ginger, whether in stews, rolls, or, of course, pho, Vietnam’s national noodle dish. Travelers can find this staple nearly everywhere, from stands in local markets to Hoa Tuc, one of our favorite Saigon restaurants. In Hoi An, Remote Lands highly recommends a cooking class with a local Vietnamese food expert who has been a fixer for visiting celebrity chefs.
This is just a selection of the Asia culinary experiences Remote Lands can incorporate into your Asia luxury holiday. Please contact us today for more information and to begin planning your trip.