Trending in Asia: Couchsurfing for Foodies
By Tristan Chan
Dec 23, 2019

Trending in Asia: Couchsurfing for Foodies

Couchsurfing just got a whole new foodie update.

Have you ever tried grabbing a catfish from mud then mincing, marinating and grilling it?

Well, you can do that in a farm house in Chiangmai, Thailand. And in Kyoto, Japan, forage for wild greens at lunch and learn to make takoyaki, or octopus balls for snack.

Spread of food. Photo: Travelling Spoon

These are some of the experiences offered in crowd-surfing platform Traveling Spoon, created by Americans Steph Lawrence and Aashi Vel, inspired by their travels in Southeast Asia. The travel site offers local cooking experiences for those who love to travel for food, as part of a growing trend known as gastro-tourism. That’s according to a major report by leading food tourism authority, World Food Travel Association (WFTA), that shows a rising demand for home-cooking experiences, where visitors get to experience local cooking at a home.

But it’s not just home-stays.

Raj Restaurant, a stop in VegThisCity's walking vegan tour, prepared a 3.7m long rava thosai and set a record for the longest thosai in Singapore. Photo: VegThisCity

The trend that’s recently taken off in Asia, also includes highly-specific food tours. And of them is plant-based food tour VegThisCity. Its founder and lead guide, Eiktha Khemlani, designed the tour around Singapore for vegans and vegetarians. Khemlani, who describes Singapore as “a world of food magic waiting to be explored,” says the modern island may not be an easy place for “going deeper and creating connections with the stories and people behind what you eat.” Some of the experiences at VegThisCity include savouring types of tea before making your own kombucha, a digestive drink, or understanding the art of foraging (hunting for herbs and flowers) to make a meal entirely out of locally grown herbs and edible flowers.

Besides niche food tours, regular food tours of the city’s best offerings are also useful.

“Without the help of a local guide, it is impossible for a foreigner to navigate the city's hawker stalls that number some 14,000. They could possibly look up the Michelin guide for some ideas but most of our best hawker food are not listed on the guide. The food guide needs to understand not just where to bring the guests but also be able to share the history and story behind each hawker as well as the hawker dish,” says Evelyn Chen, Southeast Asia’s Academy Chair for the annual restaurant ranking index, World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

And as food tourism grows, food tours will have to identify what excites tomorrow’s travellers and deliver engaging, localised experiences.

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