Homegrown, flavourful and satiating… here’s why a culinary tour is the best way to discover a new destination.
Sushi, sashimi and ramen in Japan, pad Thai in Thailand, cheese and chocolates in Switzerland, beer and sausages in Germany, bunny chow in South Africa, handmade pasta and traditional pizza in Italy… the list goes on. For many, food is one of the first things that comes to mind when planning a trip to a new country. And what better than learning about the history, cuisine and culture of a place in the company of knowledgeable, fun-loving locals? “There is ample you learn while you’re on a food tour. You escape the tourist traps and taste the most authentic dishes. Moreover, sampling all the local treats is likely to influence your eating habits and food choices for life,” says Nick Gale who organises food tours in more than 50 cities around the world.
MORE THAN JUST FOOD
While culinary trips have been around for some time now, what is fast emerging are food tours that focus not just on food tasting but delve deeper into heirloom cooking methods, history of cuisines, local nuances and fresh produce. One part adventure, one part culture and three parts delish, a gastronomic odyssey is enlightening for your palate and soul. “Whether it’s a craft beer tour, a stroll around a market or a wine and cheese tasting excursion, a group food tour is a great way to get around a new city with like-minded travellers from different parts of the world. You get the chance to interact with people in a very informal atmosphere and instantly form new bonds,” says Eléanor Grondin, a Londoner who often plays a guide for food tours in the city.
TAKE IN THE AROMA
Most food tours are all-inclusive tours and you can enjoy the culinary journey minus the hassle of finding the right routes and places, standing in queues for ordering food or making reservations, paying bills. All visits are planned and you get priority access to local food stores and eateries. Moreover, these tours are guided by locals who are sure to keep you entertained with interesting facts, stories and jokes only an insider would know; those you would never find in a guide book!
To sum it up, a food tour engages all your senses as you smell the aroma of freshly-cooked food, feel the texture and flavour of various food items, take in the sights and sounds of a neighbourhood or market, and above all, relish the taste of everything you munch, sip and slurp during the tour!
PICK THE RIGHT TOUR
Most tours are on foot which means you will be exploring the food scene of a specific neighbourhood. Find out if the neighbourhood has historic buildings, monuments or sights that interest you.
Check the number of stops and duration of the tour. A tour with six to eight stops can be enjoyable as you are likely to taste a decent variety of local staples. This way, you can also plan your meals for the rest of the day.
Make sure you aren’t allergic to foods that you will be tasting during the tour. If you’re unsure about a particular item, you can ask your guide to accommodate an alternative.
How to prep?
Don’t eat a big breakfast/meal before the tour so that you can enjoy your tastings without feeling uncomfortably full.
Wear comfortable walking shoes as you’re likely to be on your feet most of the time.
Bring enough water to cleanse your palate between tastings. Remember, you might not get water at every stop.
Carry an empty paper bag to fill those extra goodies you might not want to eat during the tour but save for later. This way, you won’t end up wasting food.
Engage in culinary
Storytelling. It will give you an insight into the history, social issues, values, customs and even politics of the community
TOP destinations to take A FOOD TOUR
London: Located near London Bridge, London’s oldest market — Borough Market — has been operating for over 1,000 years. A food tour here will show you some of the best British cuisine you’ve ever tasted! From brilliant bacon baps to life-changing sausage rolls, a food tour in Borough Market is the best way to live like a Londoner. Moreover, you get to meet home bakers, small-scale artisan producers and traders with vast culinary knowledge.
Lisbon: A great place to find all the hidden gems that dish out mouthwatering delicacies. Explore winding streets, tiny alleyways and small neighbourhoods and enjoy delicious treats in the company of locals. Get a sense of the Portuguese culture, learn how passionately Lisbonians feel about their food and sample some unique food items at Tascas (local taverns).
Hong Kong: When in a foodie hub like Hong Kong, you can’t miss trying some fantastic Cantonese food including Michelin-recommended dumplings, crispy-smoked duck and world-class dim sums. What’s interesting is that there is a rich history surrounding all the food and locations you explore in Hong Kong. Discover how traditional Chinese food was modified by locals for their westernised city. A true “East meets West” experience!
Boston: How about feeling the Italian influence over Boston’s cuisine while biting into delicious butter and pancetta ravioli? From lobster rolls to a traditional pizza, a food tour in Boston lets you sample the staples while introducing you to the historic North End. On way, pass through historic buildings, walk in the footsteps of American Revolutionaries and delve in the incredible history of the city that has been important in shaping the US.
Paris: While there are ample lively Parisian neighbourhoods that can satisfy your taste buds, you certainly can’t miss a tour in Montmartre district that boasts of a flourishing restaurant scene, historical culture and charming ambience. Head for a chocolate tasting session at one of the best chocolate makers or stop at a boulangerie and sample classic French breads and baguettes. Treat yourself to succulent hams, the finest cured sausages, homemade crepes and more. Lastly, master the art of cheese and wine pairing! French culinary delights are sure to get your taste buds tingling