We're a (healthily) competitive lot here at Original Travel and all this recent chat about the new hosts of The Great British Bake Off got us thinking. Why just Britain? And why just baking? Cue the drawing of continental battle lines and each team putting forward their region's finest cuisine for our inaugural Great Global Bake (and Roast, Braise, Steam, Sauté, Barbecue etc) Off. OK, so the title could do with some work but we think we've got a sure-fire smash hit show on our hands (any TV producers reading this, do give us a call). Fast-forward to the final, and after some fierce competition (Australasia saw off the Caribbean in a particularly closely fought quarter-final), which two continents do you think impressed the judges? It came down to a battle royale between Asia and Europe, with (spoiler alert) Asia eventually raising the trophy. Here are the reasons why. (Permission to salivate…)
Whether elbow to elbow with the locals at a bustling Bangkok food market, sitting with toes in the sand on an idyllic island or suspended in a Treepod amid the rainforest canopy having dining delights delivered by zipwire at Soneva Kiri, the common ingredient of a Thai dining experience is the delicate balance of tastes, at once sweet, sour, salty and spicy. Learn to craft the perfect Green Papaya Salad - the zing of lime, sweet crunch of palm sugar and sour shrimp paste - at a village home in Northern Thailand, or tour the markets of Bangkok with a local, sampling all manner of ingredients as you go.
There may be more Michelin starred restaurants in Tokyo than any other city on earth but we'd rather focus on another of the many, many great reasons to visit Japan - namely, staying in a ryokan. These traditional inns offer a fascinating insight into Japanese home life, complete with tatami walls, futon beds and yakata dressing gowns, but the highlight of any ryokan stay is your multi-course kaiseki dinner - which is always included - and which involves ten or more tiny, beautifully presented dishes served in your bedroom. Don't expect to know what everything you eat actually is; do expect it to be completely delicious and one of the highlights of your trip.
A focus on fresh herbs, vegetables and grilled meats makes Vietnamese one of the healthiest cuisines in Asia. Take summer rolls: a delicious union of mint, coriander, carrot and shrimp tightly packed in a translucent rice paper roll, and not deep fried like their springtime cousins. And let's not forget Vietnam's breakfast staple, phở. This noodle, veg and meat broth is serious business across the country, with family recipes handed down over generations and broths often simmering for days on end. Get your fill of banh mi, bun cha and banh xeo on a street food tour led by a blogger in Hanoi, or hop on the back of a vintage Vespa to whizz around the streets of Ho Chi Minh, sampling dishes from the locals favourite spots.
We were spoilt for choice in coming up with the ultimate Indian culinary experience. There's the porridge cooked over an open fire at dawn before a tiger safari at Sher Bagh (optional whisky added if it's cold) or a food critic guided tour of the Parsi food scene in Mumbai but the eventual winner comes from Kerala, our foodie favourite. Philipkutty's Farm is a charming homestay and working farm in Kerala's beautiful backwaters. Enjoy a full day foodie experience including a tour of the farm and the chance to harvest the juiciest tiger prawns in the farm canals and a wide range of organic ingredients and herbs before a cooking class - led by the owner's mother-in-law - to turn all these fantastic raw materials into a super-tasty end result, a sumptuous seafood curry with turmeric, ginger, cumin, coconut, tamarind and, of course, chilli that's perfectly blended for the ultimate hot/creamy combo.
2016 was a big year for Singapore's foodie crowd with the launch of the inaugural Michelin Guide to Singapore. Said Michelin Guide also showcased some of the world's cheapest Michelin star cuisine in one of the world's most expensive cities; Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken serves lip-smackingly succulent Cantonese style chicken (and pork) on a bed of fragrant, fluffy rice for under £2 a plate - tried and tested by the Original Travel team! But the culinary crown in the city must go to Singaporean Laksa. The fiery chilli, punchy citrus and tart fish sauce flavours are perfectly balanced to create a warming pinky broth best slurped with sleeves rolled up and bib tucked in.