Market Tours Offer Travelers A Make-It-Yourself Feast

An increasing number of travelers determined to have bespoke culinary adventures, avoid tourist traps, or go local are turning to market tours to source their own suppers.

Embarking on a market tour allows travelers to interact with locals, learn how to source the ingredients to recreate the dishes back home, and have a memorable meal.

"We take the stress out of eating out and make sure that all of our guests leave China with an authentic culinary experience under their belts," said Jamie Barys, chief eating officer of UnTour Shanghai, which offers several Shanghai market tours.

While culinary classes abound in China, UnTour Shanghai's cooking tours take small groups to a local wet market to pick out products and haggle over prices before heading to a kitchen in the former French Concession. Students in the two- to three-hour classes learn to make stir-fry dishes in woks or delectable dim sum by hand (To book:, $200 for a group of up to three).

Adventure Life offers an eight-day Peruvian tour that has the requisite restaurant hopping but also includes a market tour. First, the group stocks up on ingredients to prepare a novo-Andino meal at San Pedro Market, Cusco's largest open market, before heading to the kitchen at A Mi Manera Restaurant.

While students learn how to cook traditional Peruvian fare, they are also get an introduction to the ancient agricultural practices and ingredients that have contributed to modern-day Peruvian cuisine. The dishes are based on what is bought at market, but include favorites like Juanes (rice and chicken wrapped in leaves) and palm heart salad (To book:, $2,075, excluding flight).

For those who don't want to cook but still want a moveable feast, UnTour Shanghai's Street Eats is a three-hour culinary tour de force through more than a mile of the French Concession's alleyways. Participants get to visit a wet market stocked with hairy crabs and fish before feasting on nine traditional Chinese treats, including hand-pulled noodles, shēngjiānbāo (steamed buns), xiǎolóngbāo (soup dumplings), cōngyóubǐng (green onion pancakes), and egg tarts (To book:, $180 for a group of up to six).

Those in search of a solo supper with no reservations required can shop for fresh seafood at Noryangjin Fish Market, south of the Han River in Seoul (take subway line 1 to Noryangjin station, then cross the walkway back over the tracks). Dozens of seafood vendors sell every type of fish imaginable along with shrimp, crab, eel, sting rays, and more. Many vendors sell sashimi from their gurgling tanks, which is cleaned, gutted, and expertly sliced at lightning speed for W10,000. Prefer your seafood steamed or fried? Take it to a row of restaurants on the second floor, where it will be cooked for a small fee.