Experiencing Japanese cuisine is essential
to truly experiencing Japanese culture,
according to Kay Allen, senior marketing
specialist, Japan National Tourism Organization, L.A. Office.
“Many of the customs surrounding food
culture in Japan stem from the traditional
concept of hospitality, or omotenashi, and the
question of how to best create the most welcoming environment for the guest,” she said.
One of the best ways for groups to understand Japan’s culinary culture is partaking
in cooking classes. Tsukiji Cooking offers
group classes in English, using seasonal ingredients directly from the Tsukiji Market,
the largest wholesale market for fish, meat
and produce in central Tokyo. Sushi-making classes are also available.
Another essential is sake tasting in Kobe’s Nada district, or a visit to learn about
sake brewing at Kobe’s Kiku-Masamune
Sake Brewery Museum.
Tea tasting is also integral to Japanese
culture. Tokyo’s Sakurai Tea Experience
incorporates sampling a variety of Japanese
teas with offering-tea infused edibles.
“Time and time again, Hong Kong has
proven to be the culinary capital of Asia,
with tens of thousands of eateries running
the gamut from luxurious Michelin-star
restaurants to gourmet street food loca-
tions,” said Bill Flora, director, USA, Hong
Kong Tourism Board. “In recent years
we’ve seen more farm-to-table concepts,
offering sustainable dining as well as sever-
al restaurants participating in Hong Kong’s
Green Monday initiative, introducing more
refined and vegetarian-friendly menus,
creating a diverse and unique appeal for
Cooking classes are popular throughout
Hong Kong, such as InterContinental Hong
Kong’s series Cooking with the Culinary
Stars. Attendees can cook with celebrated
chefs from the hotel’s restaurants, such
as the 2-Michelin Star Yan Toh Heen and
Rech by Alain Ducasse.
Groups can sail aboard Aqua Luna, one
of the last remaining red-sail Chinese junk
boats, for a cocktail and dinner with skyline
views. Hong Kong Foodie Tours accommodates groups, as does Hong Kong’s Taste
Library, located at PMQ, a creative complex
in Old Town Central, where attendees can
cook and read books about food culture.
Fall brings the Wine and Dine Festival, a
three-day affair in Victoria Harbour.
“Taiwan is truly a foodie paradise, with
an amazing variety of culinary options
ranging from mouthwatering street food to
eye-opening fine-dining restaurants by Mi-
chelin-starred chefs such as Andre Chiang,”
said Linda Lin, director of the Taiwan Tour-
ism Bureau, San Francisco. “The Taiwanese
cuisine has always been about farm-to-ta-
ble and the importance of terroir.”
Cooking classes are popular for groups,
including cooking and foraging with an
aboriginal tribe at Cidal Hunter School.
Groups can also meet the chef at restaurants
like Silks Palace and Xiang-Yan Teppanyaki,
featuring farm-to-table ingredients.
The annual Taiwan Culinary Exhibition
is also an excellent opportunity for epicurean and industry professionals to explore
local ingredients and meet with inspiring
Taiwanese chefs, according to Lin.
Whether it’s traditional bibimbap or
samgyetang—ginseng chicken soup known
for its curative properties—food is key to
Groups can partake in teambuilding
exercises or excursions to locations like
K-Style Hub in Seoul, which offers a variety of
activities, including culinary courses and an
exhibition on Korean cuisine and ingredients.
O’ngo Food Communications offers culinary tours and cooking classes to promote
Korean food and culture. Another venue is
Jeong Gang Won, The Institute for Korean
Traditional Cuisine, near Seoul.
There is a full range of Michelin-star
restaurants for exclusive experiences, such
as Tony Yoo’s Dooreyoo, featuring one of the
most acclaimed chefs in Korea, Tony Yoo.
There is a trend for groups visiting India
to book a cooking class as part of the tour,
according to Sandhya Haridas, assistant
director for India Tourism.
Small boutique cooking classes with
hands-on meal preparation are popular
with companies like Saffron Palate, and cit-
ies like Delhi offer many food tasting tours.
In addition, most hotels in main cities
such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore have
world-famous restaurants, and on request
can set up meetings with the chef.
In India’s south, especially in Kerala,
there are many resorts that offer a spice
trail where groups can learn about the
different spices from the region.
“Thai food, whether preparing it in a
traditional, outdoor kitchen as part of a
teambuilding activity or simply enjoying a
variety of flavors from the different parts of
Thailand, is a cornerstone to many incentive
programs,” said Nooch Homrossukhon,
director of meetings and incentives with the
Thailand Convention & Exhibition Bureau.
Options include Blue Elephant, a
fine-dining restaurant and cooking school
with locations in Bangkok and Phuket.
Groups can accompany the local chef to
a fresh market to shop for the ingredients
and then prep their meals as a team.
Four Seasons Chiang Mai also features
an outdoor cooking school on-property.
Groups can host everything from cook-offs
to lessons in fruit carving.
“The food trend is Malaysia is heavily
influenced by our unique multicultural
diversity,” said Ho Yoke Ping, general man-
ager of business events for the Malaysia
Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB).
“Our local chefs are inspired by Malaysia’s
street-food scene, and they have cooked up
various creative new ideas.”
Hosting the Worldchefs Congress & Expo
next year in Kuala Lumpur will further
boost Malaysia’s credentials as one of the
global foodie destinations, Ping said.
For culinary classes, The Cooking House
in Kuala Lumpur offers teambuilding
options ranging from canape classes to
mooncake making. At Penang’s Tropical
Spice Garden, groups can partake in cooking classes. After-hours, The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa offers a cocktail-making
activity on a private candlelit jetty stretching out into the Andaman Sea, while The
Andaman resort in Langkawi offers the
Rainforest Master Chef experience.