Our expert guides take you one step closer to unbridled travel experiences. From their unrivalled local knowledge to their passion for telling stories behind the sites, we don’t shy away from showing you the best regional delicacies either. Truly embracing the idiom, “home is wherever you hang your hat”, our guides also believe that, “home is wherever you have your dinner”.
Being your ultimate guide to dinner party stories, we’re reinventing the wheel, or in this case, the table, when it comes to eating around the world. From slow-cooking meats and vegetables underneath the sands in Wadi Rum to tucking into a steaming cup of Swedish broth in traditional huts as the Northern Lights hover overhead, our trips offer the perfect setting for dinner party stories, swapping the best tales with like-minded travellers. Take a look at our five top picks for some of the world’s most memorable dining experiences.
1. Enjoy traditional Zarb dinners in the star-studded Wadi Rum
Having a traditional Zarb, some say, is the Bedouin answer to a barbeque. But this isn’t just your average barbeque – this is an ancient, nomadic tradition deeply rooted in the Bedouin culture across the Arabian Peninsula. Utilising “earth ovens” under the ground, the Bedouin people slowly roast meat and vegetables for family and guests out in the most remote corners of the desert, where the meal sometimes takes up to a day to prepare.
We get the chance to tuck into this traditional feast ourselves during our Petra & Wadi Rum Trek adventure. After embarking on our desert trek and taking in the awe-inspiring sight of ‘The 7 Pillars of Wisdom’, we make a short transfer towards Um Al Bdoun, a private campsite entirely run by the nomadic Bedouin community. Having known to roam the desert in search of water and pastures, Zarb feasts were the perfect, traditional way to cook on the move, and this tradition has been passed down for centuries. Palm leaves may have been swapped for ceramic plates, but otherwise, this traditional way of cooking remains largely unchanged and is a must-try when you’re exploring the Wadi Rum.
Slow-cooked sizzling lamb, steamed zucchini, peppers and onions alongside a serving of soft potatoes make their big reveal, rising from the earth, as their delicate, tangy spices waft in the air come dusk. Now, it’s time to knock elbows with your fellow travellers and swap stories in the cosy, vibrantly coloured mess hall – a dining tent draped in heavy woven rugs and tapestries that look like a scene straight out of Lawrence of Arabia. For stargazers, the crisp nights offer some of the clearest views of the stars above, with some even catching sightings of shooting stars, if they’re lucky.
2. Try coconut candy on a Mekong Delta River Cruise in Vietnam
While some countries are known for their modern culinary skills and innovative, flashy dishes, Vietnam sticks to what it knows best, their delicious traditional recipes passed down from generation to generation. From warming Pho soups and crunchy spring rolls to Franco-Vietnamese bánh mì baguettes, their endlessly tantalising cuisine makes Vietnam a long-standing culinary superpower, with every recipe adding to the tapestry of their fascinating history.
After you’ve had your fill of Banh Xeo (Crepe wraps), Bun Bo Nam Bo (beef on rice noodles) and Xoi Ga (Chicken with sticky rice, herbs and crispy shallots), save room for dessert, or should we say, a tasty local snack on the go. Coconut candy is one of the nation’s favourite treats – and for good reason. Allegedly, the candy originated in the Mo Cay district of Ben Tre province, “the land of the coconuts” back in the 1930s and has since become a speciality of southern Vietnam. You’ll find that coconut candy known as “Keo dua” by the Vietnamese is never in short supply, with over 100 local factories in the region alone producing an estimated 30,000 tons of candies every year!
On our Vietnam adventure, you’ll have the opportunity to try this southern Vietnamese treat for yourself while on our Mekong Delta River cruise. With many different flavours to choose from including pandan, taro, cocoa and durian (if you’re feeling adventurous) locals say it’s best washed down with a cup of green tea.
Or for something more refreshing, you might see vendors selling Sinh Tố (fruit smoothie) or Nước Sâm (herbal iced tea) which contains sugar cane, nettle leaves, grass roots, corn silk, roasted water chestnuts and dried longan, the flower of the sawtooth herb. Whatever you choose to accompany your coconut candy we have no doubt you’ll enjoy soaking in the colourful, heady experience of floating vendors selling everything from hand-picked lychees and dragon fruit to souvenirs and local coffee. Rest assured, this unique, on-the-go-tasting experience is a tale you’ll tell at dinner tables for years to come.
3. Tuck into award-winning blue cheese while basking in the beauty of the Picos de Europa
With a love of hearty, sumptuous cuisine, some of the dishes you should expect to find in Northern Spain beautiful region of Asturias, include the delicious local lamb Cordero al la Menta, the famous pitu de caleya, (cider-braised chicken paella) and the wholesome, home-made bean stew, Fabada Asturiana.
Other delicacies the locals take pride in is their blue cheese, such as Bejes-Tresviso and Valdeón. However, if you’re looking to taste one of their most unique cheeses, we’d recommend that you try their gold-medal-winning blue cheese, Queso Cabrales. What makes this strong, spicy blue cheese special, is its ageing process. Made from unpasteurised cow’s milk blended with sheep’s and goat’s milk, the cheese is cured for two weeks and then aged in deep limestone caves in the Cabrales mountains for another five months to give it that added richness of flavour.
On our Walking in Picos de Europa trip, you’ll get the opportunity to stop in remote mountain villages, and taste fresh local cheeses where they are still produced using traditional methods. With plenty of chances to pick up award-winning cheeses en route, one of our favourite lunch spots is on day 3, when we follow farm tracks from the village of Canales up to the Collado de los Buitres and on towards the base of Pandescura peak. Here, we ascend to the top where we’re met with awe-inspiring panoramas of the Western massif peaks – a perfect place to stop for lunch. Also, after a long day hiking, you’ll find nothing hits the spot better than a refreshing glass of Sidra, Asturian apple cider in one of their rustic local pubs.
4. Enjoy some Svenska Fisksoppa and traditional Sami food in Sweden
So, this one may need a little explaining. Svenska Fisksoppa is the Swedish equivalent to our English beef stews. This scrumptiously hearty seafood broth is made with baby potatoes, creamy garlic salmon, cod, leek and cooked in one cup of white wine – the perfect remedy after a cold winter’s day of snowshoeing in the outdoors. It’s here, in Rajamaa, on a remote island in the river Muonio, that you’ll find this Swedish delicacy on the menu during our Swedish Lapland Wilderness Week.
Another epic gastronomic experience you’ll enjoy on one day during your holiday is when you get to meet a local Sami family to learn more about their unique culture, ancient traditions and reindeer herding! Cosy up and listen to their stories by the crackling open fire while they prepare some traditional Sami food for you all to share. Afterwards, you’ll return back to your wooden chalet, to enjoy steaming cups of Swedish Glogg and if you’re lucky pop out for a front-row seat to the Northern Lights hovering above you. If that isn’t the perfect recipe dinner party story, then we don’t know what is!
5. Go for a hands-on jack fruit curry experience in Sri Lanka
Taking travellers firmly off the tourist trail, our expert Sri Lankan guide, Roshan Fernando, shows visitors the way to the Kalu family farmhouse for a completely raw, authentic Sri Lankan welcome. For over 20 years, Roshan has been leading the way when it comes to immersive travel experiences, but on our Discover Sri Lanka and Discover Sri Lanka Premium trips, he also found a way that he as an individual, can give back to his local community and be a positive instigator for change. After meeting Kalu, his wife Chandra and their three young daughters, Roshan gave them the support they needed to build and create a sustainable business – preparing authentic Sri Lankan meals at the Kalu family Farmhouse.
On two of our Sri Lankan adventures, we master the art of eating with our hands and swapping travelling tales over oak tables, while tucking into Chandra’s speciality – her spicy jack fruit curry. Known as “Ambul Polos” in Sinhalese, this delicious aromatic dish is almost as good as the company of Kalu’s family and hearing more about their unique story and traditional Sri Lankan customs. You may come to Sri Lanka for the sites, but it’s beautiful dinner parties like these that will leave an indelible imprint on your memory.
To find out about the unforgettable culinary experiences you can have with us, click here.