10 Delectable Cooking Holidays, From Mexico to the Mediterranean

Vacations that feed the tummy and the soul.  
Great guacamole is one of the first few things you learn to make at Sazon, the cooking school in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Photo: Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock

Eating is a great way to acquaint yourself with a new culture, but to really understand a place and its people, grab a knife and start chopping. The food cultures we encounter when we travel tell us about the country’s past, present, and future hopes. For instance, the profusion of Indian food in England, and Indonesian food in the Netherlands, reveals to visitors the imperial histories of these countries. The best takeaways from a cooking class are, of course, the recipes. Here’s a list of cooking holidays that will leave you with plenty to chew on. While the ideal duration of each course is listed below, some can be tailor-made to your holiday.

Jungle Curry In Thailand

Gorge on phad thai in Bangkok’s bustling street-food markets, sample home-style curries in Chiang Mai, and enjoy a homestay experience in Kanchanaburi on this culinary journey through Thailand. At the cooking masterclass in Kanchanaburi, learn to prepare dishes like jungle curry, wing beans, and banana flower cake. Travellers also go mushroom-picking, explore local markets with hosts and learn about the basics of Thai cooking. The course ends with a 11-dish, festival-style khan tohk menu.
USD 1040/₹70,900 per person including accommodations for an 8-day trip; www.intrepidtravel.com/thailand/real-food-adventure-thailand-94392.

7 Days By The Amalfi Coast

making pasta

Few things beat making—and eating—pasta crafted from scratch. Photo: mythja/Shutterstock

At cooking school La Cucina del Gusto in the charming town on Sorrento, the first session begins with a visit to a farm with Chef Carmen Mazzola where guests are introduced to the star ingredients of Italian cuisine. There are excursions to olive oil presses, mozzarella-making classes, and dinners at venues, including Don Alfonso 1890, a top-notch restaurant on a property that used to be a 19th-century palace. Intersperse cooking classes—on preparing antipasti, fresh pasta, and classic Italian desserts—with trips to the isle of Capri and Pompeii, both a short drive from Sorrento. La Cucina del Gusto has tie-ups with four charming boutique and luxury hotels in Sorrento across budgets, so accommodation can be part of the package.
From 2,100 EUR/₹1,55,403 for double occupancy in low season; 2,500 EUR/₹1,85,003 in peak season; www.amalficoastcookingvacations.com

Home-Style Japanese Cooking In Kyoto

kyoto markets

Slot in a visit to Nishiki market when you’re cooking in Kyoto for its fantastic food and ingredient stores. Photo: Marko Kudjerski/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Taro, an amateur chef, and his wife Yoshiko, conduct classes in their Kyoto home. Over the course of four hours, Taro explains each ingredient and answers queries as he teaches participants to cook Kobe beef and make dishes like daikon radish simmered in kombu-dashi with a drizzling of sweet miso. There are courses for vegetarians (groups of six), but he needs advance notice to organise these. For an additional 4,000 Yen/₹2,300, the course includes a trip to Nishiki market.
7,900 Yen/₹4,532 per head for the four-hour course (with Kobe beef); 5,900 Yen/₹3,400 per head for vegetarian; www.kyoto-cooking-class.com.

Mediterranean Flavours (and Views) on a Turkish Cruise

Combine culinary lessons with the comforts of an elegant luxury cruise holiday. Learn about Turkish-Mediterranean cuisine and acquaint yourself with the stunning south-western coast of Turkey over eight days. Master a great meze platter, learn to make borek (a savoury pastry), and listen to gripping Turkish legends—the tour guide is a passionate foodie, but also an archaeologist. He escorts guests on land excursions to rock-cut temple tombs and the marbled city of Knidos.
GBP 2,225/₹2,17,324 per person, including accommodation for an 8-day trip; www.petersommer.com/escorted-archaeological-tours/turkey/food-tour.

A Slice Of Khmer Life

Phnom Penh's bustling food markets abound with flavour and frangrance, both familiar and new. Photo: Xiaojun Deng/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Phnom Penh’s bustling food markets abound with flavour and fragrance, both familiar and new. Photo: Xiaojun Deng/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Navigating the busy, narrow pathways of Kandal Market in Phnom Penh is a great way to get a sense of Cambodia. Haggle for fish, stock up on kampot peppers, kaffir lime, and spring-roll casing and, if you dare, sample a “thousand-year” preserved egg, a local speciality. Then, make the trek back to the cooking class for lessons on how to make perfect taro spring rolls, Cambodia kroeung (spice paste), and lip-smacking tigerfish amok (the national dish). This lesson is as much about Cambodian life as it is about the country’s memorable cuisine.
USD23/₹1,566 for a full-day course (9a.m. to 4 p.m.; four dishes); USD15/₹1,000 for a half-day course (9a.m. to 1p.m.; two dishes); www.cambodia-cooking-class.com.

A Gourmand’s Fairytale In Slovenia

Meat, pastry, wine, and cheese are important parts of Slovenian cuisine, which is deeply connected with the geography of the land. With that in mind, this tour introduces travellers to the region’s breathtaking landscapes as well as its delicious fare. The four-day course begins with a boat ride on the lake to Bled Island, for a lesson on making walnut poteca, a traditional Slovenian dessert that is similar to walnut coffee cake. There are sessions with the traditional cheesemakers from Bohinj Valley, a gingerbread workshop, and dinner at the region’s oldest restaurant. Balance kitchen with sledding along the slopes in winter, and excursions to the fairytale city of Ljubljana, with its cobbled paths and storybook hilltop castle.
From 2,272 EUR/₹1,68,295 per head for a four-day trip from Nov-Apr; 2,650 EUR/₹1,96,000 per head from May-Oct; Prices include accommodation; www.culinaryslovenia.com/vacations/winter-gourmet-fairytale.

Journey To The Past In Vietnam

Pho (noodle soup) is the most well-known Vietnamese dish, but the cuisine has plenty more to offer. Photo: insatiablemunch/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Pho (noodle soup) is the most well-known Vietnamese dish, but the cuisine has plenty more to offer. Photo: insatiablemunch/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Red Bridge Cooking School prioritises immersive experiences. Classes have no more than 8 participants, and begin with a walk through organic farms, where farmers still work with traditional implements. Guests pluck coriander and mint from herb gardens before heading to the bazaar to buy water spinach, sesame rice paper, banana flowers, and other ingredients required for the meal. The three-hour, hands-on cooking class that follows focuses on making four traditional preparations: A typical menu might include pho (beef noodle soup), cha cha (fish cooked in a clay pot), tom nuong la chuoi (lemongrass fish in banana leaves), and goi hua chuoi ga nuong (grilled chicken and banana flower salad). Lunch is followed by a leisurely cruise on the Hoi An River.
USD 55/₹3,700 per person for a half-day course; www.visithoian.com/redbridge/cookingschool.html.

A Day In The Heart Of Mexico

The chefs as Casa de Sierra Nevada, a boutique hotel in a cluster of historic buildings in the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende, run a cooking school called “Sazón,” the Spanish word for seasoning. Housed in an 18th-century mansion, the school teaches enthusiastic participants everything from making guacamole, chile rellenos (stuffed chillies), and enchiladas, to distinguishing a tomato from a tomatillo. There are classes for healthy Mexican cooking and regional cuisine, but the one with the market tour affords the best opportunity to explore the town’s pretty cobbled streets, sampling local favourites, like cactus tacos and fried pacholas (ground beef patties). Casa de Sierra Nevada also has a store with pottery crafted by local artisans.
Day-long class with market tour MXN 950/₹3,500; rooms from MXN 8,811/₹32,500; www.belmond.com/casa-de-sierra-nevada-san-miguel-de-allende/sazon.

The French Connection

Cook like the French with journalist and cookbook author Susan Hermann Loomis in the countryside of Louviers (100km from Paris). Her philosophy: The closer food is raised to where it is cooked, the better it will taste. Susan runs On Rue Tatin, a 12th-century convent turned into an intimate kitchen studio where she conducts cooking classes for individuals, groups and families. In addition to straight-up classes, there are shopping trips to the charming village market of Le Neubourg, meals at a local bistro, and long conversations with Herman.
USD 2,000/₹1,36,199 per head for a six-day course (doesn’t include lodging); www.onruetatin.com.

China On Your Plate

Making dumplings

Learn to make the perfect dumpling. Photo: SteFou!/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

This 12-day itinerary begins in Shanghai, moves on to picturesque Guilin, and ends in the resort town of Yangshuo. En route, travellers stop at riverside stalls, caves of stalactites and stalagmites in the Karst Mountains, and even take a t’ai chi class. But the highlight of the package is the cooking. Guests are escorted to a Yangshuo cookery school where English-speaking teachers teach them the basics of Chinese cooking (how to chop vegetables, for instance) as well as more advanced lessons, like making perfect dumplings.
From GBP 2,395/₹2,33,583 per person including accommodation for a 12-day trip; varies with the season; www.chinaholidays.co.uk/themed-china-tours/cookery.

  • Anjana is a freelance journalist and an author of children's books. Passionate about world cultures and cuisines, she also enjoys hiking and diving with her daughters.

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