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Meet locals, eat their food: New Asian dining trend

By Frances Cha, CNN
updated 5:02 AM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
"I've never met you before, but maybe that's why we get along so well!"
  • New travel startup PlateCulture introduces the latest way of eating out -- eating in
  • Website lists 80 home chefs in four Southeast Asian countries
  • Each listing includes detailed menus and reviews

(CNN) -- Eating home-cooked food in a local's house -- it's what great stories are made of.

Thanks to some enterprising minds, dozens of home kitchens and dining tables in Southeast Asia have opened up to travelers wanting a taste of the local cuisines. They're available for booking online, complete with reviews, photos and payment options.

PlateCulture is the latest to gain traction out of Asia, following the likes of, which we wrote about in our best websites for travelers roundup.

More than 80 home chefs in four Southeast Asian countries -- Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore -- are listed on the PlateCulture site.

Each listing outlines the menu that will be cooked and the hosts' background. Most also include user reviews that range from mild to wild endorsements.

The most popular tried-and-tested kitchens are showcased on the homepage under "Our Picks."

Kala S. serves Indian food out of her kitchen in Kuala Lumpur and is one of the most popular hosts on PlateCulture.
Kala S. serves Indian food out of her kitchen in Kuala Lumpur and is one of the most popular hosts on PlateCulture.

After the booking, customers receive detailed directions to the host's house. Payments are made through PayPal, and the company keeps 16.7% as a commission.

PlateCulture says hosts have been tested and approved by staff or company ambassadors in different countries.

While most listings are standard dinners, some are more creative, such as this Indian cuisine cooking workshop or English afternoon tea.

Travel, eat, share

Founder Reda Stare says she was inspired to start the company by her own experiences of dining in local homes while traveling in India.

The goal of the company is to "help travelers in all countries across Asia to experience being in a local home, eating homemade food and feeling like you've been a part of something authentic and special," Stare says.

One of the most difficult parts of the job has been convincing travelers it'll be a better alternative to a restaurant.

"Mostly the challenges are spreading the idea to travelers, that it is really worth it to step a bit from your comfort zone while traveling and try out this new concept of spending a few hours at local homes in Asia."

While the experience is great for travelers, Stare says the company's impact has also been big for the hosts.

"One of our home chefs received a lot of praise for her recipes so she decided to write and publish her recipe book while another host who makes excellent sweets started cooking and selling various jams as her part-time job," said Stare.

The company pans to expand to Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lanka in the upcoming year and South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Australia in the near future.

Would you feel comfortable dining in a stranger's kitchen while traveling? Let us know in the comments.

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