How to Eat Your Way Through Korea, Vietnam, Japan and Thailand
Embark on these tantalizing food tours around Asia and discover little-known gems as you dig into the heart of a city’s culinary landscape.
Korea: Spice and Everything Nice
Korean food may be traditionally made for sharing, but fear not, single travelers: O’ngo Food Communications has you covered. Their Night Dining Tour (US$88 ($682)) will take you on an adventure through Seoul’s thriving food scene.
Stroll through Gwangjang Street Market for finger-licking Korean snacks and feel your mouth water as you watch Korean ahjumma aunties dish up piping-hot cheap eats. Make sure you have a go at the crispy mung bean pancakes, one of the market’s signature dishes, made from ground mung bean with specks of kimchi. In a local barbecue house enjoy the view of your meat sizzling on the grill plates, alongside dozens of free-refill side dishes such as sautéed cucumber and potato with soy sauce. Last of all, savor the spicy-sweet combo of chewy ddeokbokki rice cakes to end the day on a high.
The tour starts at 6pm and lasts for three and a half hours, with four stops scheduled along the way. Non-alcoholic options are available, so kids are free to join; but if you want to embrace the full Korean dining experience, take advantage of traditional rice wine tastings at each stop along the way. ongofood.com
Vietnam: Streets of Saigon
What’s better than a guided tour that walks you through local foodies’ favorites? A guided tour where you don’t need to walk! Sit tight on a scooter as the English-speaking guides of Saigon Food Tour whiz you through the busy streets of Vietnam’s largest city.
Founded in 2014, Saigon Food Tour is getting rave reviews for the authentic taste of Vietnam it offers. There are three tour packages to choose from: Grab a cup of slow-drip Vietnamese coffee before shopping for exotic spices during the “Taste of the Morning” tour for US$48 ($372); or discover off-the-guidebook hidden gems as you chow on street food during the “Taste of the Night” tour, priced at US$60 ($465). A local dinner of seafood and street eats awaits you at the “Saigon by Night” tour, priced at US$48 ($372). Drink in a steaming bowl of pho brimming with barely-cooked beef, onions, mint and bean sprouts, and finish off the night with a sweet grass jelly and mixed fruits soup.
Saigon Food Tour is also launching a “One tour for one meal” charity program in which proceeds go towards the needy, so you can eat to your heart’s content in the knowledge that it’s for a good cause. saigonfoodtour.com
Japan: Capital Delicacies
People travel from all over the world to sample Japan’s world-famous cuisine, and there’s no better way to experience the endless eats on offer than with an insider guiding you around the tasty streets. Founded by a team of real Tokyoites passionate about food, Food Tours Tokyo hosts tours that will have you exclaiming “oishii!” from beginning to end.
Take your pick from an array of gastronomic tours like the “Walk and Taste Tsukiji Fish Market Morning Tour”: Priced at JPY18,000 ($1,230) for a small group of up to six people, venture deep into the alleys of the famous Tsujiki fish market, your taste buds tingling in the salty air as you ogle at piles of salmon, tuna and jumbo crabs. Not a fan of sashimi? The outer market has loads of hot snacks to offer as well, from crunchy deep-fried fishcakes to fluffy sweet omelets.
Alternatively, for the same price you can opt for the “Delicious Downtown Shinjuku Izakaya Evening Tour,” where you’ll feast on ramen and yakitori (skewered chicken) in classic Japanese gastropubs. Drink in the nostalgic ambience—alongside plenty of chilled sake. foodtourstokyo.com
Thailand: Bangkok’s Bangin’ Eats
Eat like a local with the guides from the Bangkok Food Tours, where you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the rich history and culinary culture of Thailand’s capital.
If you’re up for something authentically Thai, the Offbeat Floating Markets Food Tour for THB3,600 ($791) is just your cup of tea. You’ll swing by three floating markets on the rivers that roll out through the Samut Songkram Province, including the Tha Kha Floating market and the Amphawa Floating market, during the full-day journey. Relish roasted bananas dripping with syrup and sticky rice in bamboo leaves. Then hitch a ride on a row boat as you paddle your way through a coconut farm and learn the secrets of coconut sugar making.
Another day trip takes you to Ayutthaya, the capital of Siam and a UNESCO world heritage site. An enlightening experience for the stomach as well as the mind, the Ancient Ayutthaya Food and History Tour (minimum THB2,800 ($615), depending on the group size) will show you around stunning temples while feeding you with local delicacies made from centuries-old recipes. Make your own roti saimai, the Thai-style candy floss, and get a taste of Thailand’s other beloved sweet treats. bangkokfoodtours.com