Cooking classes have long been popular with visitors to Southeast Asia. But where once travellers learned to make nasi goreng (fried rice) or Thai green curry, they’re now frying up tarantulas, cooking goat testicles and tasting duck foetus. Ouch Ratana, who has run an extreme cooking workshop in Siem Reap for three years, says his students are fascinated by the process of frying tarantulas, silkworms, crickets and scorpions. “Most are surprised by the taste because these things look ugly, but when students eat them, they say, ‘This is actually okay.’”
Over in Vietnam, Bong Nguyen has been leading extreme food tours in Hanoi for almost a year, during which she introduces visitors to the “delicate” flavours of duck’s blood – which she points out tastes strongly of iron. “Most of my guests don’t like the blood,” she says, laughing. “But they love to learn about why we like it and how to cook it.”
In Luang Prabang, Laotian chef Tee Mitaphab takes tourists to a local restaurant to learn how to make a curious dish involving goat’s blood. Tee Mitaphab started these workshops in early 2017 to show tourists “a different side” of Laotian cuisine. During the lesson, she also demonstrates how to make an exotic menu utilising fried toad and unexpected goat parts, including the penis. The process is highly enjoyable; the subsequent eating, filled with squeals.
Indeed, it remains to be seen whether these unusual foods will gain mainstream popularity, but learning to cook them is certainly emerging as a fun and unique tourist activity.
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This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.