Like most people I check out all the normal tourist attractions whenever I travel. The London Eye? Check! Acropolis? Double Check? But one thing I do differently than most when I travel is take a culinary class. Culinary classes are an ideal way to immerse yourself in a destination’s food and culture. These classes allow you to not only sample traditional local cuisine, but gives you the best souvenir possible — the ability to reproduce tasty dishes in your own kitchen back home so you can relive the experience over and over again! If you’re looking to step your travel game up a bit, check out these amazing classes which are sure to add a little spice to your next vacation!
Blue Elephant Restaurant and Cooking School – Bangkok, Thailand
Sure you can simply stroll the streets of Bangkok trying all the delicious street food you see, but if you want to truly delve into the unique flavors of Thai cuisine, Blue Elephant should be your first stop. The “Thai Culinary Ambassador since 1980,” Blue Elephant has restaurants from London and Brussels, to Dubai and Jakarta, however, Bangkok is home to its cooking school. Classes start off with a tour of a traditional Thai market, where you learn to pick out fresh produce for some of your favorite Thai dishes. Next, you head back to the classroom where a trained instructor guides you as you prepare foodie delights such as Pad Thai with Prawns, Laab Kai (Spicy Chicken Salad), Kaeng Paneang Nua (Paneang Curry with Beef) and more. Finally, after all your hard work, you and your fellow chefs enjoy your dishes together at the famed Blue Elephant Restaurant.
O’ngo Culinary School – Seoul, South Korea
I have a confession to make. I never had Korean food before last year when I went to South Korea. Crazy, I know, especially since I live in New York which has an entire neighborhood dedicated to all things Korean. Yet, despite this faux pas, I’m glad I waited. Taking a culinary class at O’ngo was the perfect way to introduce my palette to the wonders of Korean cuisine and folks, my life has been changed. I opted to take a Korean BBQ class where I learned how to make Galbi, Spicy Stir Fried Pork, Korean Chive Salad and a few yummy dipping sauces. However, you can also take classes on Banchan cuisine, Bulgogi and Seasonal Kimchi, Bibimbap and Korean desserts. O’ngo also offers a variety of culinary food tours around Seoul that will introduce you to everything from Korean BBQ and pub crawls, to gourmet dishes at some of the city’s most exclusive restaurants.
Delicious Istanbul – Istanbul, Turkey
I’ve taken culinary classes all over the world, but this one has to be my favorite. Run by Russian born Olga Irez, Delicious Istanbul introduces you not only to Turkey’s amazing foods, but to the welcoming spirit of the Turkish people. Your day starts by meeting Olga on the European side of Istanbul to catch a ferry over to the city’s Asian twin. It is on the Asian side of the city that you get a feel for what the real Istanbul, its neighborhoods and food look and taste like. Olga leads you through the winding market where shop owners are happy to welcome you with offers of sweets, baklava and, of course, Turkish tea. You learn about the staples in traditional Turkish cooking and pick up ingredients for your meal along the way. What makes Delicious Istanbul’s class so special is that after your market trip you don’t head back to a cold industrial kitchen, instead Olga takes you back to her very own apartment. It is here that you will prepare dishes like Bulgar Salad, Sigara Boregi with Swiss Chard, Pastirma and Feta Cheese, and Turkish Sponge Cake, while sharing laughs with Olga over a glass (or three!) of Turkish wine.
So next time you travel to a new place, look for a cooking class to flavor your vacation. It might be more tasty than you think!
– Danielle Pointdujour