1. Gastronomy in Japan
Far East specialist Inside Japan has put together a self-guided culinary itinerary travelling mainly by train from Tokyo to Osaka. Highlights include sushi-making in Kyoto, a street food tour of Osaka, Buddhist shojin ryori food at Mount Koya and a ryokan dinner in Takayama.
2. Street food in Malaysia
It can be hard to unravel the secrets of local cuisine without a guide on hand to answer questions. Rickshaw Travel offers short, food-focused breaks in a variety of Far Eastern destinations that can be built into longer itineraries. Among the most spicy is a two-night stay in the Georgetown district of Penang with its outdoor food courts and traditional Nyonya restaurants. This includes a guided bike tour around the street market and the option of a cooking class to discover more about local flavours.
3. Spices of southern India
Kerala’s cuisine draws on the rich variety of pungent spices grown in the region including vanilla, nutmeg, pepper, turmeric, cloves and cardamom. A visit to the spice plantations of Periyar is a must. It takes in the fishing villages near Cochin and the tea estates of Munnar. Cooking demonstrations and a cruise through the waterways to Kumarakom with lunch is also a must do.
4. Curries and kebabs in India
Go on a tour of northern India that takes in the classic sights while also focusing on the local food scene. Travelling by air, train and road to Delhi, Agra and Khajuraho, choose an itinerary that includes a visit to the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Along the way dinners range from typical Varanasi cuisine of choorma (made with wheat, ghee and sugar) to traditional Bhopal curry and kebab specialities. Opt for a guide and a local host to explain the techniques involved.
5. Food markets of Vietnam
Capital city Hanoi has long been a bucket-list city for gourmet travellers and should be the starting point for a culinary tour. Sample the street food and join a cooking class to explore Vietnamese techniques. Take an overnight cruise in Halong Bay and a tour of Hue. Take a Vespa tour of Hoi An’s cafes and restaurants for barbecued specialities, banh flan (a version of creme caramel) and banh can (egg and rice cake).
6. Delicacies of China
Top-notch gastronomy and five-star accommodation are two features of an exclusive two-week itinerary offered by escorted tour specialist Wendy Wu. Taking in China’s top sights in Beijing, Xian and Chengdu, there’s also a Yangtze river cruise and a chance to sample Peking duck and fiery Sichuanese hotpot, based on pepper and chilli ingredients. The tour ends in Shanghai with a special Shanghainese dinner and farewell cocktail overlooking the Huangpu river.
7. Gourmet Mexico
This gastronomic tour offered by long-haul specialist Abercrombie and Kent includes overnight stays in Mexico City, the Unesco world heritage site of San Miguel de Allende and the Pacific coast beach resort of Punta Mita. And gourmet experiences include a chef-led food market tour, a hands-on salsa and tortilla-making lesson and a private wine-tasting session with a sommelier.
8. Culinary trail in Thailand
Without language skills, it’s hard to find the best local restaurants unaided. So escorted tour specialist Cleveland Collection takes groups off the beaten track in the company of a knowledgeable local guide to sample little-known gems in Bangkok, Ayutthaya and the National Park of Khao Yai, where dinner is served a relaxed vineyard. An Issan-style cookery class explores north-eastern techniques, and the die-hards can try insect delicacies at a local market in Phitsanulok. More palatable options include kanom kook (coconut rice pudding) and sweet mango.
9. Cuisine of South Korea
When it comes to Asian food, Korea’s cuisine is often overshadowed by neighbouring China and Japan, but this small peninsula punches above its weight, gastronomically speaking. From spicy breakfast soups and fermented bean soups to tasty bibimbap and the ubiquitous kimchi, there’s plenty to tantalise the taste buds. Small group tour operator Intrepid Travel offers a circular itinerary from the capital Seoul, taking in the foodie cities of Jeonju, Busan and Gyeongju in the company of a culinary expert.