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See a new country through its cuisine with holidays that combine traditional cooking with farm and market visits, wine tours and more

From the delicate baklava of Greece to fragrant pho on the streets of Vietnam, there’s nothing quite like traditional food that gives one a peek into the local culture of a country. And with the rising popularity of ‘learning’ holidays, those with an adventurous palate must surely opt for culinary getaways to return with memories of their destination that can be recreated at will. Here is our pick. Text: Rashmi Rajagopal

Abruzzo, Italy
Located in central Italy, on the Adriatic coast, this one combines traditional cooking and farm skills. You will stay in the charming town of Vasto, said to be a great spot for hiking, at a homely family-run hotel. After an elaborate breakfast of freshly baked bread, country-style preserves, cake, pastries, coffee, tea and freshly squeezed fruit juice each day, guests will be taught to turn out dishes like bruschette with meat sauce, cavatelli (a kind of pasta) with vegetables and tarallucci (Abruzzo biscuits), pick olives at an olive grove and more. You’ll also learn ‘L’arte dei ripieni’ or the art of stuffing: which will see try your hand at Pallotte casce e ove (cheese and egg balls); ravioli with ricotta cheese and spinach; stuffed peppers, eggplant, zucchini or mushrooms, apart from fishing and milking sheep at a local farm. Duration: 7 days. Rs.95,800. Details: responsibletravel.com

Reethi Rah, Maldives
This luxury resort offers classes in cuisines such as Maldivian, Arabian
and Japanese. It starts with a visit to the chef’s garden, where you will learn to pick fresh and quality ingredients, after which the masterchef will tell participants about the use of various condiments such as oils, vinegars, wines and olives. You will then participate in a hands-on cooking session and later enjoy the fruits of your labour at lunch. Students will take home a certificate, chef’s cap and coat. Duration: 1 day. Rs.11,500. Details: oneandonlyresorts.com

Laos
This one gives a comprehensive look into the tiny Asian country, with the tour taking you to four different locations – the temple town of Luang Prabang, Pakbeng, a sleepy town on the banks of the Mekong river, the UNESCO world heritage site Muang La and finally the capital city of Vientiane with French colonial architecture. Guests will learn to pick the right ingredients at the local markets and cook up a
traditional meal with each place offering a unique cuisine. Dishes include sticky rice, larb (a mixture of marinated fish or meat, which is sometimes raw), tam mak hoong (raw papaya salad) and more. In Muang La, the hot spring close to the Muang La Resort, where you will be staying, is surely a treat as it gets quite cold in the evenings. Students will also visit a local family on the rice fields, who will share their knowledge of cultivating and harvesting rice. Duration: 9 days. Rs.95,800++. Details: bookculinaryvacations.com

Madeira, Portugal
Those who love their vino might enjoy this cooking holiday in Portugal’s wine producing island of Madeira. Organised by Active Gourmet Holidays, it involves a six-night stay in a large vintage manor house which is also a cooking school. Situated 400 metres above sea level, the house is surrounded by vineyards and offers views of the coast and surrounding islands. Activities include visits to the local farmers’ market in Funchal, about 15 minutes away, sessions on understanding the different types of Madeira wine, varietals, history, degree of richness, food pairings, a visit to the local wine museum, cooking limpets, shrimp, tuna and octopus with wine and more. The nearby bars and shops will keep you occupied during your free time. Duration: 7 days. Rs.2,13,905 approximately. Details: activegourmetholidays.com

Gokpinar, Turkey
Off the tourist map, Gokpinar retreat centre is the place to go for some traditional Turkish cooking classes. The retreat centre is set in Antalya province on a hill top amidst scented pine woods, olive trees and an organic farm. Learn to make Turkish coffee, baklava, borek (a kind of pastry with filling), manti (Turkish ravioli) and more. Guests will pick produce from the farm, visit the local market for ingredients and bake in a traditional wood-fired oven. You’ll also be taken to a local wedding to see how friendly locals cook for large crowds. Participa-nts will stay in spacious rooms, done up with traditional kilims and with stunning views of the countryside. Dura-tion: 8 days. Rs.54,255 upwards. Details: caravanturkey.com

Riviera Maya, Mexico
Set in Mexico’s Northern coast, Riviera Maya is an idyllic location for some cooking inspiration. Organised by The International Kitchen that specialises in cooking holidays, guests will stay at a deluxe resort complete with a large pool and a private beach. Classes will be held at a school a few minutes’ drive away from the resort. Activities include visits to an organic fruit and vegetable garden, and in-depth cooking lessons. You will be taught Mexican cuisine such as tamales (steamed and stuffed pockets of dough), coastal delicacies, corn masa (corn flour) bread and more.Duration: 4-8 days. Rs.83,500 upwards. Details: theinternationalkitchen.com

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