Best way to experience a culture in a foreign country? It’s got to be food. According to a survey on millennial travellers, 69% said that food was a significant factor in deciding where to go on a vacation – and food tourism is trending in response.
Across the world, Instagrammers flood their walls with flatlay shots of their meals, travel bloggers update their feed with interesting food they find, and some post videos of strange cuisines. Needless to say, food is a way of discovering culture and unique cuisines.
Next time you visit Asia, here are 10 types of food experiences you should try to get a taste of the culture!
1. Street food
Nothing beats street food. In a time when travellers are eager for authentic experiences, street food lets you delight in local flavours.
Across Southeast Asia, night markets, bazaars and even floating markets boast a variety of delicious bites. In Taiwan, you would not want to leave without visiting a night market like Shihlin Night Market or Raohe Night Market. In Vietnam, street vendors can be found at the side of the roads, where you can sit on little stools and indulge in your meal.
That said, you should consider food hygiene and safety when choosing what to eat. If you are unsure about the food or how much your tummy can handle, you might not want to take the risk. If you do get to try the street food, however, you’ll be diving headfirst into the local food scene – and more often than not, they wouldn’t break the budget!
2. Food tours
If you’re looking to sample all sorts of food in a day, you might want to consider going on a full-on food tour. Food tours are usually conducted by a local who knows what’s good to eat in the area. For one, the multiracial country of Malaysia has influenced diverse cuisines such as Malay, Chinese, Indian, Peranakan food and more.
It can be quite an experience to expose your tastebuds to different ethnic dishes, all in one day! For backpackers and those travelling in small groups, you may meet new friends at the tour as well, bonded by your love for food.
3. Cooking classes
Cooking classes are growing in popularity. Nowadays there is more to local cuisine than just having it for a meal; many travellers choose to join cooking classes to gain a deeper insight into the food culture.
Apart from being able to bring the skill home, travellers can also get acquainted with locals who are passionate about sharing their culinary heritage. It is a kind of intimacy with food you can’t find elsewhere.
4. Food trucks
Food trucks are mushrooming around the world thanks to the increased awareness for different cuisines. They are a hit in food festivals and major events, while good ones never fail to gather a crowd. Typically started by modern local entrepreneurs, food trucks are part of the urban food landscape of many Asian countries.
5. Market Strolls
Go where locals go to find their daily necessities – the market. Be it the morning market or the grocery store, these are where you can find the lowest prices for food like fruits and vegetables, or popular brands such as bottled drinks, junk food and alcoholic beverages.
6. Exotic flavours
Asia’s novelty food makes for a thrilling adventure in the culinary world. From Cambodia’s fried tarantula to Malaysia’s durian, Japan’s wasp crackers and Philippine’s balut egg, there is something for those with a brave stomach and stomach of steel. Exotic food is not for everyone, but it can be an unusual food experience if you have the chance.
7. Specialty restaurants
You may find that a country’s signature dish may be interpreted in various ways depending on the region. Just as different communities have their own dialects and cultural quirks, so are their taste palettes and preferences.
Specialty restaurants are a wonderful way to find the best speciality dishes in different regions across Asia. In Japan, sushi may be the must-try food, but if you happen to be in Kobe, do not miss the chance to try quality Kobe beef in a proper restaurant. It’s heavenly!
8. Coffee shops
Great news for coffee drinkers! Coffee is quickly turning into a niche food tourism across the world – and it is here to stay. Have a cuppa in a traditional kopitiam for that old-style dose of caffeine in Malaysia. Let the froth of a Vietnamese egg coffee line your lips. Or try a cup of latte made with local coffee beans grown in the region.
9. Booze and brews
Coffee isn’t the only beverage that transcends cultures. Many travellers make time to taste the local brew, exploring the region in a fun and different way. Some classics you can try in Asia is China’s baijiu (a white spirit), Korea’s famous soju (distilled spirit), Indonesia’s arak (fermented wine made from rice or coconut palm sap) or even Vietnam’s snake wine (grain alcohol infused with – you got it – snakes).
10. Be your own cook
Another way to immerse yourself in Asia’s food culture is to cook your own meal. As you browse through the local markets, you may find plenty of fresh ingredients and spices you wouldn’t be able to find in your home country.
By incorporating these into your home-cooked food, you can add a new dimension to the food, allowing you to appreciate the unique tastes and textures on a deeper level. Likewise, you could look up a new recipe online and try it out.
What kind of food experiences do you like to try in Asia? Look for your next holiday on Cuti.my.