Travel special: These food trails will have you munching on silkworms in Nagaland, digging up truffles in Croatia, and more
The adage “Food and travel go hand-in-hand” is a familiar cliche and for good reason. No culture can truly be experienced without its cuisine. From a visit to the birthplace of coffee, to a sneak peek into oak barrels of aged whisky, we pick out the most unique and offbeat food trails from across the globe.
Whisky and chocolate tour, Scotland
Whisky and chocolate are a match made in heaven, and if you need proof, look no further than this trail by Whisky Tours. The six-day tour will see you travelling through the beautiful Speyside region of Scotland with stops and whisky-tasting sessions at Glen Moray Distillery, Cardhu Distillery, Glenallachie Distillery and Glenlivet Distillery. At each stop, sample the chocolates given to you and arrive at the best pairing yourself. Created by award-winning Scottish chocolatier, Iain Burnett, the box of 20 chocolates will include options such as Raspberry and Black Pepper Velvet Truffle, Cinnamon and Clove Velvet Praline, Passion Fruit and Hint of Mango Velvet Truffle, and Lemongrass and Hint of Lime Velvet Praline. In between all the whisky tasting sessions, enjoy authentic Scottish meals at some of the regions most popular restaurants and bars.
Nagaland Food Trail
Nagaland, the state of smoked meats, fermented ingredients, wild insects and super hot chillies, is a must-visit for any dauntless food lover. The 16 tribes that inhabit the region, each have their own customs and traditions. On this eight-day Nagaland Food Trail, experience the state’s well-kept secrets and lesser-known dishes. Start the trip at Chizami, a village in eastern Nagaland. Trek through the jhum (slash and burn agriculture) terraced farms and forage plants that will be cooked for your meal later. Drive to the capital city, Kohima next and visit the local market to pick up ingredients such as silkworms, frogs, wasp larvae and snails for your dinner. The final stop on the trail is Khonoma where you can cook a traditional herbal medicinal chutney using foraged plants. The last meal of the trip will be by chef Joel Basumatari, who has returned from London to open his restaurant Smokey Joe’s Restaurant & Grill, which offers a modern take on Naga cuisine. The trail also includes lessons on drying and smoking meat, cooking with dried meat, learning to make Naga citrus fruit marmalade and fermented soybean paste, and tastings of wild crabapple, gooseberry and passion fruit wines.
Ethiopian Coffee Tour
The African country of Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. Myth dictates that a 9th century-goat herder named Kaldi noticed that his flock was more energised after nibbling on these berries, and that’s how coffee was discovered. This week-long tour takes you through coffee plantations and beautiful countryside as you delve into the whole process, from bean to cup, of coffee making. Start in the capital city of Addis Ababa and experience a traditional coffee-making ceremony where the matriarch of the household roasts and grinds the beans. The drink is served in customary cups and jars and you drink it along with a bread called Himbasha. Next, you visit the coffee producing cities of Jimma and Bonga in the region of Kaffa (from which the beans derive their name) and see how the plant is cultivated. The tour also takes you to lodges within coffee plantations where you can also spot wildlife. But if you think this is too much of a coffee overload, fret not, as the country offers a diverse and unexplored spread of dishes. You can dine on injera bread, fuul (a bean stew) and various types of curries. The cuisine is also vegan friendly.
Truffle picking, Croatia
A three-hour drive from Zagreb sits the peninsula of Istria, which is shared by three countries — Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. Your tour guide will pick you up from the Croatian capital, Zagreb, for a day trip into the truffle-producing region. When you arrive at the location, you will be welcomed with some biska (Croatian brandy), medica (honey liqueur) and višnja (sour cherry liqueur). Once you’ve settled down, a truffle expert will take you through the history of truffles, their traditional uses in Istria and how you can pick them. You will also get to meet dogs that are trained to pick truffles. This will be followed by a tasting session where you will tuck into three kinds of local truffle-flavoured cheese, truffle sausages, truffle spreads, truffle honey and truffle oil. If you’d like to get your hands dirty, thrown on an apron and be part of the team that whips up a large truffle omelette, locally called ‘fritaja.’ A spot of shopping later, you will be taken to a nearby forest where you can put your newly learnt truffle-hunting skills to use. The trail also covers Hum, the smallest city in the world and an authentic lunch at a local tavern.
Olive Oil Tour, Spain
The romantic setting of the Andalusian countryside, at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Granada, Spain, is home to lush olive plantations and oil mills. The European country is the world’s leader in olive oil production and boasts over a hundred varieties of olives. This Olive Oil Tour is a look into how the small green fruit becomes the rich oil, that the locals lovingly call liquid gold. Just a short drive away from the city of Granada, the informative guided tour sees guests visit centuries-old olive trees from groves that were developed in the Moorish period. Guests can first see how the olives are harvested from these trees and prepared for extraction. The visit then continues to an oil mill, that has been run by a family of farmers for five generations, while you get a behind-the-scenes look into the machinery and the preservation process. You can even crush some olives yourself. And after all that comes the fun part — the tasting session. Try premium extra virgin oils, flavoured olive oils, table olives and a variety of sweet and savoury dishes made from them. The meal will be paired with the finest wine and tapas from the region.
Tea and cycling trail, Sikkim
This tour is one for intrepid travellers, who are open to breaking a sweat while on holiday. Curated by Spice Roads Cycling, this cycling trail kicks off at Sikkim’s capital city, Gangtok. While the first day is an easy ride, during which you’ll visit the baroque, 200-year-old Enchey monastery, the following days pose more of a challenge as you’ll be riding uphill. The tea-tasting trail moves from Gangtok to Martam, Ravangala, Pelling, Darjeeling and Kurseong exploring monasteries, tea estates, markets, temples and more along the way. The 11-day tour will see participants riding an average of 35 kilometres per day, so make your fitness levels are up to the mark. The tour cost does not include bikes, but you can hire bikes locally if you’re not able to carry your own.