Asia offers the traveller so much: friendly faces, colourful festivals, ancient temples, stunning beaches, jungles, wildlife, modern cities and more. But even without all that, you’d go just for the food. From the chai stalls of India to the haute cuisine restaurants of Japan, Asia provides food experiences that your tastebuds – and all your other senses – will never forget.
Vietnam & Cambodia
Whether you’re having a pho (noodle soup) in the back streets of Ho Chi Minh City, or testing your own skills at a cooking class, you’ll find Vietnamese food to be light, fresh and fragrant – often with a French twist (think bánh mì: a crusty baguette stuffed with a flavour-packed combination of meat, pickled vegetables and herbs). Over the border in Cambodia, where people often greet each other by saying nham bai howie nov (have you eaten rice yet?), the food is equally memorable. It can vary from fresh, Vietnamese-style dishes to more heavily spiced fare closer to the cuisine of Thailand.
Don’t miss: A degustation dinner at Luke Ngyuen’s Vietnam House in Ho Chi Minh City. Enjoy an extraordinary culinary experience created by this Australian-Vietnamese chef, with matching wines.
India meets China in the cuisine of Myanmar, so expect everything from samosas to stir-fries. Spicy salads called thoke are a popular fast food and the national dish is mohinga, a fish and rice noodle soup, served by street food vendors, usually for breakfast. If you like sampling lots of different dishes over dinner, Myanmar is the place for you. Order a fish or chicken curry with rice and you are also likely to get a light, sour, Chinese-style soup called hìn-jo, or a peh-hìn-ye (similar to Indian dahl), as well as fresh and cooked vegetables, pickles and dips, often followed by pickled tea leaves and nuts, or chunks of palm sugar.
Don’t miss: Drinks and canapés as you watch the sun set over awe-inspiring ancient Bagan, home to more than 2000 ancient temples on a bend of the Irrawaddy River.
Fresh, elegant, Japanese food is art, culture and philosophy as much as sustenance. From sushi – the vinegar rice and fish staple that has been adopted all over the world – to kaiseki, a multi-course banquet that shows off multiple cooking techniques, Japanese food gives diners the feeling that they’re eating something that’s been meticulously prepared, is good for body and soul, and hits all the right flavour spots. Shop in fresh food markets, learn to make sushi, and meet genuine geiko (geisha) or maiko (apprentice geisha) at a traditional dinner as you explore this nation’s fascinating and unique food culture. Make sure you sample the drinks culture too: no trip to Japan is complete without a visit to a sake brewery.
Don’t miss: Visit a temple in Kyoto and take part in a traditional tea ceremony: the ritual presentation of green tea.
China is a big place, and its cuisine more varied than you might imagine. The nation’s food is traditionally divided into eight regional cuisines, or four major cuisines: the seafood and soups of Shandong cuisine, the spice of Sichuan cuisine, the delicately cooked and eclectic ingredients of Guandong, or Cantonese, cuisine, and the subtle and sophisticated Huiayang cuisine. Wherever you are in China, food will be a big part of your cultural experience. Dine on a dumpling dinner as you watch a Tang Dynasty cultural show in Xi’an; attend a Chinese tea ceremony followed by a dim sim lunch or perhaps a dumpling cooking class in Shanghai; and sit down to a restaurant meal with views of the Great Wall of China.
Don’t miss: In Beijing, indulge in an authentic Peking duck banquet served with traditional accompaniments. This imperial dish has been mentioned in texts dating back to 1330.
Mesmerising, baffling and sometimes confronting, India is many things to many people, and its cuisine is suitably diverse. From the meat-based curries and tandoori breads of northern India to the coconut-infused vegetarian thalis (multiple dishes served on a tray) of the south, this vast nation offers an array of amazing food. Appropriately, for a land of such extremes, great flavours can be found everywhere from five-star restaurants to street corners. Lunch at the Taj Khema restaurant with views of the Taj Mahal is unlikely to be forgotten. And drinking sweet, milky chai with the locals at a chai stall, or enjoying crisp street-food samosas stuffed with spicy potatoes and peas, are memories that will stay with you long after you get home.
Don’t miss: In Jodhpur, on a rocky hill 100 metres above the surrounding plain, enjoy a Marwar barbecue in the maharajah courtyard of Mehrangarh Fort.
Food from nearby southern India combines with influences from Indonesia, Holland and elsewhere in Sri Lanka’s colourful, spicy, exciting cuisine. Rice and curry is the staple dish, generally cooked with coconut and chilli, and served with sambal (a coconut condiment), lime pickles and onion relishes. Expect lots of seafood on the ‘Teardrop Isle’, and street food ranging from stir-fried chickpeas in a paper cone to prawn vadai, or fritters. For a taste of the English influence in this vibrant nation, head for the hills and enjoy high tea in a tea plantation, complete with strawberry, chocolate cake and cucumber sandwiches. It may seem surreal, but this is Asia: nothing should surprise you.
Don’t miss: Dinner in a cave at the spectacular Heritance Kandamala hotel: enjoy charcoal-grilled peppered prawns, grilled tournedos of beef and black-and-white chocolate marquise by the light of flaming torches.
Luke Nguyen – Chef, APT Ambassador
Luke Nguyen’s new TV series, Luke Nguyen’s Food Trail is shining the spotlight on Asia’s mouth-watering cuisines. As APT Ambassador, the acclaimed Australian chef is deeply involved in many of APT’s Asia itineraries. This season, Luke has once again shaped a range of exclusive culinary experiences for APT guests to enjoy on their Vietnam and Cambodia holiday. In 2018 he will also escort guests on unique gastronomic holidays, offering an authentic look at the region through his eyes.
This article has been produced in association with APT.
Discover the spice of life through the amazing cuisine Asia has to offer. Experience the food experiences that your taste buds – and all your other senses – will never forget. Everything is taken care of in an unforgettable luxury journey with APT. For more information visit www.aptouring.com.au/traveller, call 1300 290 669 or contact your local travel agent.