On this episode of Talk Travel Asia Podcast we talk about Food Tours in Asia, specifically Food Tours in China and Cambodia. Food is one of the top reasons that people travel. Some people travel specifically to eat the cuisine of a particular destination, while others are just eager to try a new type of food while exploring an exotic land. We chat with Brian Bergey and Leanna Payne from Lost Plate Food Tours, about designing food tours and the different types of cuisine available in the destinations they serve.
Trevor: You’re lucky that you don’t actually need to travel to discover some great exotic food. Not only does Thailand have some amazing local cuisine, it’s got great food from all over the world. When I was in Bangkok I had some great food. Every time I come back to Bangkok I have a long list of places I’m going back to again and again. We ate at Polo Fried Chicken together last month. What was the last great Thai food you had recently?
Scott: Ya you’re right. I think Bangkok must be one of the best places in the world to eat for a few reasons: variety and cost. You can have a great meal for $0.50 or a world-class, high-end meal. I truly love the simple food here, but also relish in great dim sum, duck noodles and then a good burger or BBQ. That said, the Parts Unknown show with the late Anthony Bourdain featured Bronx once and the food variety there looked incredible.
Trevor: Aside from Bangkok though, I don’t think I’ve ever gone anywhere just to eat, but Japan is one place I really research my food options before I visit. You only have so many meals in a destination and it’s important to me that I get some good ones. You ever traveled anywhere just to eat?
Scott: I don’t think I’ve ever traveled with food being the focus but other countries for food strike me as India, Mexico, Japan and Italy. Well worth going for that. Vietnam is certainly gaining more cred as well. Interesting how many of these are in Asia.
Trevor: Ask friends who live or have lived in the city. Google but not those stupid crowd sourcing websites. I look for local food bloggers or professional food magazines online…
Scott: Yes, I would ask people I know that live there or have been. Sometimes Lonely Planet for a few sure bets, then do searches online and note places that keep popping-up and a few dumpy holes in the wall. And of course when you’re somewhere, just walk around and if there are lots of locals, sit down.
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Before we bring our guests in I’d like to talk a bit about food tours, having designed a few myself. It can be pretty challenging so I think our guests deserve a lot of respect. It took me a good year and several test tours before I was comfortable with our Street Food tour in Phnom Penh. It’s not just about selecting the right food venues, it’s also about timing and pricing. And it’s not just about great food, it’s about the right atmosphere and even a good story or hands on experience. There are a lot of elements that go into it.
Scott: I’ve done a couple in Thailand as well. You need a mix, don’t get people too full too quickly, keep the spots to small bites, easier to stomach for a while, then a couple mid-way that are adventurous that people can pass on, you definitely want most to be spots to be ones people know they wouldn’t find on their own or know how to order and make it happen. With some, a ‘proper’ meal after some snacking can be good. And booze along the way. Vespa Adventures do great ones. – I’ve been on theirs at Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City – both high value!
Trevor: Ok, with that, let’s bring in today’s guests:
Today’s guests are part of the team that operates Lost Plate food tours, a specialized company that focuses on introducing local foods to foreign visitors. They have been running trips since 2014 and now offer tours in Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai, and Xian China. They also offer food tours in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia as well as Portland Oregon.
Brian Bergey is co-founder and CEO of Lost Plate, he’s from Oregon and now lives in Beijing (via London, Singapore, and Xi’an). Leanna Payne is a food tour designer, resident food nerd, and Operations Manager for Lost Plate Food Tours Cambodia. She is based in Phnom Penh, where she grew up and currently resides, splitting her time between here and Siem Reap where the other Lost Plate tours are offered in Cambodia.
- How and when did Lost Plate start – tell us a bit about the story?
- Did any of you have a professional background in F&B prior to working with Lost Plate?
- How do you go about designing a food tour? For example: what are the types of restaurants that you think people would like?
- What are the benefits of joining a food tour rather than just exploring a city’s food scene on your own?
- How is the food scene different among the four cities in China where you offer food tours? (want to know what the different cuisines are like in the different destinations.)
- We touched on it before but what are some of the challenges people have dining in China if they try to go it alone?
- We understand that you only hire local food guides: what are the benefits of having a local guide on a food tour?
- I used to design trips for a company I owned and the challenge was always training the guides to tell captivating stories – how do you do that?
- Who designed the Cambodia food tours and how did you go about selecting the restaurants here in Phnom Penh?
- Could you share a couple of “must-try” spots that aren’t on your food tour for our listeners?
- We also see that you do drinking tours in addition to food tours. How do you incorporate local beverages into these programs?
- As I live in Cambodia I can understand why visitors would appreciate having a food guide in Phnom Penh which can be a challenging city to discover local restaurants on one’s own, but what makes a food tour in Portland Oregon so special?
- What are food pods – I see those on one of your Portland trips.
- A couple of your favorite dishes: where and what?
- Stand out spirit, beer or drink?
- Dream food destination: where would you want to go on a food tour?
- Favorite country or city to eat at?
- Why does food lend itself to travel more than anything else?
- How can people learn more?
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- Lost Plate on Youtube
- Lost Plate Website
- Lost Plate Food Tours Cambodia Website
- Twitter: @LostPlateTours
- Lost Plate on Instagram
- Parts Unknown – The Bronx
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