Food: A way to the heart of a culture:

Diving deeper into Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos

11/08/2023 | Published 6 months ago

There is something about traveling in Southeast Asia, the colour, sounds and smells just seem more robust.  It only takes stepping out into the street markets to really excite the senses, pungent smells, radiant fruit colours, and pots exuding fountains of steam. Food is not just something to be savoured, it is a gateway to your host countries culture. Food is an essential ingredient of rituals, and in Asia it is a way to provide sustainable income to many communities including those less fortunate. Allow us to introduce you to our favourite food experiences that also give back in more grams of goodness than you can imagine.

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In the late 90’s, Jimmy Phan, an Australian Vietnamese started KOTO (Know One Teach One). Hospitality trained himself, on visiting his birth country Jimmy recognized street kids in Hanoi had no access to education and so started a humble sandwich shop employing the kids, which grew into several restaurants backed by a hospitality school. Even with Vietnam’s modernization many ethnic minority and disadvantaged communities are at risk and KOTO, with their link to the Australian Box Hill Institute, are able to give graduates a recognized international accreditation and fulfil a much needed world-wide demand for hospitality staff.  On both our Authentic Vietnam and Authentic Northern Vietnam trips you will have lunch at KOTO Van Mieu in Hanoi.

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Hue is the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam, and with that history a culinary excellence. How better to get to know the intricacies of local dishes than with local hosts. The Doan family in Hue invite you to their home to share traditional dishes, and enjoy stories of their family cooking and cities’ culture.  And in Hoi An we take you on a farm to table experience at the Tra Que herb village. Local farmers will share their work of tilling the land with you and then you will assist with lunch preparation and see how much herbs provide the essence of Vietnam’s flavourful dishes banh xeo (savoury crepe) and tam huu (rice paper roll). Both experiences provide additional tourism income direct to local families.

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Travelling around Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia you will notice similar tastes but each country has it’s idiosyncrasies, whether it be a difference in the fish flavours, the variety of chillies or pepper. Cambodia is famous for khampot pepper and prahok, their own pungent fermented fish paste. On our Authentic Cambodia trip you visit Battambang, known for it’s street food and artisanal producers of rice noodles, rice wine and prahok. And it is home to the national dish amok, a steamed fish curry in banana leaf. You can try this at Jaan Bai, renowned for it’s distinctive cuisine, it creates employment for underprivileged youth supported by and supporting Cambodia Children’s Trust and set up by famed Australian chef, David Thompson.

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In Laos, the lesser known South East Asian nation, our Authentic Luang Prabang four night package, a the perfect add on to any Vietnam or Cambodian trip, introduces you to a local tradition, the baci. The baci is a pagan ritual that has woven its way into Buddhist culture and consists of blessings to make sure your spirits are all present, they believe you have 38 of them, and back in your body so you can go on your way safely, and face whatever comes next. In the baci ritual bananas, local sweets, sticky rice and sometimes chicken legs, all are important to feed the spirits and you cannot leave without eating something in respect.

Whether you travel to Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos, or all three, we can ensure you get more than a taste of local culture, we want you to feast on local dishes with the people who care, and then you really can go amok at the local market.

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Cambodian cuisine plays a large part in the enjoyment of any visit and can be considered a reason to visit Cambodia in its own right. 

Authentic Indochina | 17 Days

The perfect combination of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam for those with limited time.

Authentic Laos | 8 Days

Laos is South East Asia’s hidden, landlocked gem, a spectacular mountainous land shaped by ancient Buddhist tradition, the Mekong River, and rich cultural tradition.