Some say that the best way to discover a country is through its food. For the epicurious, cooking vacations give you the chance to delve deeper into a country’s cuisine beyond its restaurants and markets. You’ll get a crash course in local produce at a food market then dive straight into the kitchen with a chef and end the day savouring your own creation. So why not taste the world with these cooking trip ideas and make your vacation a delicious one.
The rolling olive groves, vineyards and towns of the Tuscan countryside portray the Italy that many dream of. And it’s no surprise that Tuscany is one of the most popular destinations for cooking vacations as it is home to some of the finest wines, olive oils and cheese in the world. There are lots of cooking courses on offer, from learning to make traditional Italian staples like homemade pastas, succulent meats and tiramisu with a veteran chef to discovering generations of family recipes from a nonna (Italian for grandmother). We recommend Tuscan Way, which organises cooking vacations with local chefs that range from three days to one week, and take place in a beautiful Chianti villa.
A city exploding with colours, eclectic culture and modern flair, Barcelona infuses plenty of character into its cuisine. Wander through the labyrinth-like food market of La Boqueria and learn how to pick out the freshest cod fish, then take your wares home and have a shot at preparing traditional Catalonian dishes like codfish salad, paella and crema catalana – you’ll find them simple to put together yet extremely flavourful. For those short of time, you can try one-day cooking classes at Cook and Taste, with a market tour, wine and ingredients included. Or for a longer trip, Catacurian organises culinary vacations (from three to six days) in the nearby town of El Masroig; choose your classes, from specialised rice-cooking to olive harvest trips.
The blending of indigenous flavours and Spanish colonial influences has resulted in a plethora of rich and diverse Mexican dishes – it’s a country that has given the world tortillas, tacos, chilli con carne and mole to name a few. Oaxaca epitomises Mexico at its most authentic, preserving its indigenous roots in its culinary and daily life. At Casa Sagrada, learn to prepare Teotitlan mole, Oaxaca’s unique chilli pasilla (chilli paste) and tamales (steamed corn wraps) using banana leaves. The culinary immersion programs bring you to village homes to see how locals bake meat and chorizo (sausages) using traditional methods.
As the capital of India’s Rajasthan region, Jaipur has been home to the royal family for centuries. The city is studded with lavish palaces, imposing forts and the country’s biggest bazaars, and it’s no wonder Rajasthani cuisine is at its finest in Jaipur. Dip your hands into heaps of spices and learn to make typical Rajasthani dishes like dhal makhani (lentil stew), pulao rice and naan. You’ll be surprised by how diverse Indian cuisine actually is, with flavours varying widely depending on regions. IndoVacations’ private classes give a good introduction into Indian gastronomy, explaining the appropriate use of typical spices and traditional cooking practices.
Straddled by the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Dessert, Marrakesh is not only an excellent travel destination but also a culinary haven for street food lovers. Moroccan cuisine has long gained fame for its exotic flair – with the use of the clay pot tajine, concoction of spices and fusion of Arabic and French influences. At the Rhode School of Cuisine in Marrakesh, you’ll whip up sumptuous and authentic platters like tajine de viande (meat stew), couscous, harira (popular lentil soup) and m’henca (almond-filled pastry). The one-week cooking course is set in a luxury villa, with mountain treks and camel rides included.
Nellie Huang is a full-time travel writer whose work has been published in CNN Go, National Geographic Intelligent Travel, Wend and Women Adventure Magazine. Hailing from Singapore, she now calls Spain home and spends her time traipsing around the region. Read about her travels on Wild Junket.