Whether it’s a sensational Peking duck banquet in Beijing or a dazzling array of spicy curries from Rajasthan on a tour of India, there’s no denying that sampling new food is one of the most exciting aspects of any river voyage. APT really embraces the concept of local cuisine, both in the menus onboard its ships and the tours ashore.
Sample regional cuisines
On any APT river cruise in Asia, you can expect the finest regional cuisine on board, from a tempting pho on a cruise through Vietnam, steaming hot and packed with herbs and noodles, or dosas on the breakfast buffet as you journey through India, where everybody should try the specialty of thin pancakes stuffed with spiced potato.
Ashore, there are trips to local markets, escorted by expert guides who will talk you through the intricacies of street food. Best of all, there are chances to join cooking classes in some of Asia’s top culinary schools. In essence, plenty of opportunity to savour the flavours of the destination.
Dining by Luke Nguyen
APT is especially fortunate to have superstar chef Luke Nguyen as its brand ambassador. Nguyen’s influence extends through all of APT’s Asian voyages; more than just lending his name, the Australian-Vietnamese culinary whizz has a hands-on input into multiple itineraries and onboard cuisine. Nguyen escorts several cruises himself throughout the year on cruises through Indochina and Myanmar.
These are a real treat; a cruise with Nguyen is a feast for the senses and his enthusiasm is infectious. In Ho Chi Minh City, he will show guests through the mayhem of Old Saigon to experience Vietnamese cuisine at its most authentic, watching families tend their pots of steaming broth, passing hawkers touting homemade treats and observing throngs of locals gossiping and slurping spiced noodle soup at roadside stalls.
This tour also includes a visit to the area where Nguyen’s extended family grew up and culminates with an exclusive cooking class at GRAIN, his famous cookery school, where guests will learn to prepare authentic Vietnamese dishes – delicious concoctions might include pumpkin flowers stuffed with dill and prawn, or sea bass marinated in galangal, lemongrass and turmeric.
Many of APT’s Asia voyages also include a degustation dinner at Vietnam House, Nguyen’s newest and highly acclaimed restaurant, paired with fine wines and showcasing classic dishes from North and South Vietnam.
Unique culinary experiences
On extended tours of Vietnam, there’s a further chance to learn about Vietnamese cuisine in the pretty town of Hoi An. One of APT’s Signature here is a boat cruise along the Hoi An river to the Red Bridge Cooking School to explore its exotic herb garden and select fresh produce to prepare a delicious lunch.
The cuisine of Myanmar is subtly different from that elsewhere in Asia. With Indian influences, as well as Chinese and Vietnamese, it’s rich, tart, delicate and spicy all at once. On a cruise along the Irrawaddy on the luxurious RV Samatha, between Yangon and Mandalay, there are plenty of chances to try dishes that for most travellers are completely new: tea leaf salad with a crunchy peanut dressing, perhaps, or a spicy fish stew. There are opportunities to learn about the local cuisine on every voyage – in Myanaung, for example, guides take guests to a local market where for many, it’s a challenge to identify some of the exotic fruits and vegetables on display.
On one of the special Luke Nguyen-hosted voyages through Myanmar, the chef will conduct cookery demonstrations on board, as well as taking guests on guided walks through the markets and preparing a banquet on board, showcasing Burmese specialties.
Keen to explore more of Myanmar? Travel Highlights of Mystical Myanmar.
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APT creates special moments using food and wine serve to complement the stunning scenery, too. In Bagan, cocktails and canapes are served as the setting sun casts a golden glow over the thousands of temples and stupas scattered across the floodplain; a memory that will last a lifetime.
Just outside Mandalay, there’s an evening cruise on rowing boats to see the magnificent teak U Bein Bridge, with waiters from the ship popping champagne corks for a toast, just as the spindly structure is dramatically silhouetted against the setting sun.