There are many things to be excited about come 2021, and one of those things is our exclusive Chef-hosted departures across our vessels. As each Aqua Expeditions journey features innovative menus created specifically for each destination, it is a one-of-a-kind experience to be able to engage with the award-winning consulting chefs and delve into their creative visions.
Anchored by a locally-sourced approach to ingredients, guests can expect to taste signature dishes which encapsulate the taste of the region. The highlight of these specially-hosted journeys is the unique opportunity to discover the inspiration that drives our master chefs, alongside a further exploration into each culinary culture through market visits, tastings, and cooking classes.
At the very forefront of gastronomic innovation, Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino is known for being the first to put Peruvian, and more specifically, Amazonian cuisine on the world map. Chef Schiaffino acts as an ambassador for this region, raising awareness on the diversity of native produce through his mouthwateringly modern cuisine, as well as championing rainforest sustainability, and local indigenous producers and communities.
While ingredients such as bananas, paw-paw, root vegetables, beans, and freshwater fish are staple ingredients in Amazonian cuisine, Chef Schiaffino has transformed them by combining them alongside uncommon native ingredients to create authentic and captivating dishes in a fresh and inventive fine-dining approach.
The paiche fish is one such ingredient that Chef Schiaffino advocates aboard our Amazon expeditions. As one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, it has been rehabilitated from the brink of extinction through the tireless work of his sustainable paiche project in the Peruvian Amazon. With our help, a community of Amazonian fishermen has successfully nursed these populations back to health over 10 years. Onboard Aria Amazon, we serve them in different presentations, either poached in a salad, grilled with local sausage sauce and fire-roasted sweet chili, or sautéed in coconut-turmeric sauce. Other exciting ingredients to look out for are superfoods such as the camu-camu fruit, the macambo seed, palm hearts, and the cocona berry.
Join Chef Schiaffino on several unique departures to taste, learn his secret recipes, and experience hands-on cooking with his supervision here.
Eastern and Oriental
Those in the know about food are very likely to have heard the hallowed name of Chef David Thompson. A culinary artist who has single-handedly brought worldwide attention to Asian cooking, more specifically authentic Thai cuisine, his restaurants perennially earn Michelin stars and rank on “The World’s 50 Best” list. Aboard Aqua Mekong, Chef Thompson has curated a much-lauded dining experience that honors traditional recipes of Cambodia, Vietnam, and the surrounding region. Each dish highlights a distinctive sense of place and heritage, and is served in the Asian family dining tradition.
As the expedition sails between both countries, it is interesting to note how similar, yet different the cuisine is. Both cultures are heavily influenced by French sensibilities due to past colonization, however remain distinct from the other. One aspect that binds the two cuisines is the importance of fresh and homemade ingredients like herbs, spices, aromatics, noodles, and soup broths. Chef Thompson has remained true to the food that inspires him, by taking guests on a parallel journey of the palate, exploring the more Chinese influence of stir-fries and noodle-based soups, with more blending of flavors from nearby Thailand and Cambodia. Food in Vietnam is typically sweeter, with palm sugar used in savory recipes, rice-derived dishes, and coconut creams.
Signature Vietnamese dishes to look forward to are beef pho noodle soup with sweet basil, star anise and spring onions, fresh banh mi made with baguettes served with Siracha mayonnaise, tuna relish with garlic and fresh coriander spicy hoisin sauce, grilled minced beef in rolled betel leaves – a popular street food – and anything using lotus, either using the leaf, root, seeds or stems.
Dishes that exemplify Khmer influence is fish amok, a steamed snakehead fish curry that is redolent of lemongrass, galangal, and coconut aromas, as well as sauces and dressings such as green chili, tamarind, lime juice, Cambodian Kampot black pepper, unripe green mango, and the ubiquitous fermented fish sauce.
Expand your culinary palate with Chef Thompson as he takes you on an adventure to enjoy indigenous and river-inspired dishes here.
Taste the Rainbow
With a strong pedigree of experience and restaurants that are ranked as some of the best in the gastronomic food mecca known as Bali, Chef Benjamin Cross brings world-class dining to the seas of East Indonesia onboard Aqua Blu. Over 170 signature dishes have been specially created to reflect the diversity of flavors found on the ancient spice routes from Indonesia all the way through to the Mediterranean.
The sheer breadth of Indonesia and its 6,000 populated islands and more than 300 ethnic groups means that there is an enormous wealth of influences to be mined, whether it is from the Middle East, India, China, or even Polynesian and Melanesian cuisine. As a whole, the food from Indonesia demonstrates complex flavor, thanks to certain ingredients, spice mixtures, and the delicate combination of savory, spicy, sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Aboard Aqua Blu, both seafood and meats are favored, while spices like nutmeg and cloves take on special importance because of the historic significance of our expeditions.
Sambal, a hot and spicy chili sauce notably made from shrimp paste, shallots and chili is a staple condiment in Indonesian cuisine. There are 212 variants of sambal, with sambal matah – made from raw shallots and lemongrass – served atop freshly caught and grilled barramundi being one of our favorites. Rice is another important food for Indonesians, and nasi goreng, also known as fried rice, is considered a national dish. Chef Cross also includes many other specialties on his delicious and healthy menu: babi guling – pressed and roasted Balinese-style sucking pig, ayam bakar or grilled chicken, slow-roasted beef rendang, organic Javanese prawns, and Balinese urup salad, made from coconut, green beans, and cassava leaves.
Join Chef Cross in bringing his philosophy of uncomplicated food, based on top-quality produce and pared-back elegance onto the table here.