In Asia you can visit temples and sites, wander in fresh markets, and sample amazing food in food courts, restaurants, and street corners. But nothing gives a better sense of the destination like spending a day with a cook in his or her kitchen.
Inside the kitchen and possibly a walk in the vegetable garden or the local fresh market will show you more than the food. You’ll learn about the culture, history, and the story behind every dish. Perhaps get an insider guide to where to eat when you are traversing the country on your own. So, here are Travelmath’s five best cooking class tours in Asia to help you decide where to go next:
1. Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An is 18 miles from Da Nang International Airport and an hour and 17 minutes flight from Hanoi. Located in Vietnam’s central coast, this well-preserved ancient trading port was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
There are plenty of cooking schools in town but we have chosen Green Bamboo Cooking School and Cafe for your cooking class tour. A driver will pick you up at your hotel, then tour the local market with Van the hostess, buy ingredients and learn about the local produce. After the local market tour you’’ll be taken to Van’s home to cook the dish of your choice (selected during reservation). This tour includes time to mingle with the hostess and other guests around Van’s kitchen table.
Pick up time is around 8 to 8:30 a.m. and the class ends at approximately 4 p.m.
2. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand’s cultural city is another Asian destination where you can indulge in good food. It is only a flight away from Bangkok. In fact, just a one hour 13 minute flight.
Aroy Aroy Thai Cooking School provides a half day cooking class tour that starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 1:30 p.m. You’ll have to make your own way to the school.
The tour includes if weather and group size permit, a 15-minute riverboat cruise on Ping River to the food market. The escorted food market tour highlights the vegetable, fruit, and spice sections. If the group has less than four guests, the cooking school uses a songthaew (red truck) for transportation to the food market.
After the food market, temple and flower market tour, guests will learn how to prepare five traditional Thai dishes at the cooking school. The tour ends with a time to feast on the food you prepared and sip a complimentary Thai beer.
3. Bali, Indonesia
If you have tried mie goring, sambal ulek (Balinese hot sauce) and pepes ikan (Balinese steamed fish in banana leaf) in Bali, you’re going to love learning how to make them at home. These simple dishes are taught in many cooking classes but we have chosen Payuk Bali Cooking School.
You have a choice of a morning or an afternoon class. Free pick up is available in the Ubud area. The tour starts with a trip to an outdoor food market to learn about local fish, meat, produce and other fresh ingredients. You’ll learn to cook in an open-air kitchen. This hands-on experience gives you an opportunity to grind, cut, mix, and stir-fry and finally a time to share the a meal with the host and the other guests.
This half day tour lasts around five hours.
4. Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan’s ancient and old capital city is home to the best kaiseki – a meal of small dishes with bitter green tea. Besides kaiseki, Kyoto offers plenty of opportunity if you are looking for a good cooking class tour.
Check out Kyoto Uzuki Japanese Cooking by Emi Hirayama. Unlike the other cooking schools in Hoi An, Chiang Mai and Bali, everything is ready when you arrive. There are no trips to the market or temple. You’ll cook three to four dishes in the class. A typical home cooking menu includes a salad or a soup, a grilled or fried dish and a sweet dish.
The class is held in Emi’s house, which in itself is a plus because you get to see a real home in Kyoto.
5. Seoul, South Korea
Did you know there is a kimchi museum in Seoul? In fact, the art of kimjang (making and sharing kimchi) is inscribed on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Learn to make kimchi and bulgogi (a beef dish) at the O’ngo Cooking School. This tour includes a trip to the local market, a two-hour long cooking class and time to savor the food you cooked after the class. It is only available Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and Thursdays at 2 p.m.