I’m really not a fan of cooking. At all. I’ll bake the occasional cake, but when it comes to making actual meals, I try to avoid it. So when I was given the opportunity to take a cooking class in Hoi An, my immediate reaction was no. However I’d really enjoyed Vietnamese food and the rest of the group were taking part, so in the end I decided to try it in the hope that it would encourage me to cook when I got home.
Hoi An is renowned for its own unique cuisine due to the influence of both the north and south, and has some of its own speciality dishes such as Cam Lan noodles. Food is a big part of Hoi An’s culture, from the street food stalls to the high end restaurants, so it seemed the ideal place to learn some skills. The class was held at the Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant and Cooking School, owned by Vietnam’s ‘celebrity’ chef Madame Vy. She is known throughout the country as the chef who taught Gordon Ramsay Vietnamese cooking, and she owns a number of restaurants and has published her own recipe books.
The school takes up three floors; the kitchens are upstairs, and the ground floor contains a replication of a street food market. All sorts of different dishes are available, and we tried steamed dumplings, flavoured rice, cassava, and noodles, and we also had the option to try and make some of the dishes using the traditional methods. They also had a section titled ‘weird food’, which included silk worm salad, duck embryo, and pigs brain; luckily being a vegetarian I didn’t have to try these! There was a section for vegetarian food, however under the sign was just a huge pile of green leaves and a potted plant. I had to laugh at the unintentional irony.
Next we went on a trip to the local market to look at the different produce and experience local trade. We took a boat to the market, and even at 9am it was boiling hot; it was difficult to comprehend how the locals were wearing trousers and long sleeved tops. Visually the boat trip was amazing; the morning sunlight lit up the blue of the river and the sky, and the brightly coloured wooden boats came alive. The market was busy, with colourful stalls displaying all kinds of produce, whether it was vegetables, fruit, fish or meat. The local guide explained the more unusual items on sale such as mangosteen, and how they would cook them. The market was a great insight into Vietnamese culture and I don’t think its something I would have experienced if I hadn’t taken the cooking class.
We returned from the market to start the actual cooking, and found we were lucky enough to have Madame Vy taking the class herself. She would demonstrate the recipe at the front and explain some of the history behind the dish, then we would attempt to recreate it. I can’t describe how hot it was in that kitchen. With so many people cooking and no air conditioning, at times it was almost unbearable.
The first thing we made was cabbage leaf parcels filled with shrimp mousse in a vegetable broth (I had a tofu substitute!) which involved creating a vegetable stock and cooking the parcels in it. Staff were on hand to help, and I was actually quite pleased with the result. It was edible anyway.
Next was BBQ chicken (tofu) and lime leaf, which was marinated and cooked in the oven. This was served with a mango salad. I didn’t even manage to slice the mango correctly; the staff replaced mine with some they had already pre-sliced! Told you cooking wasn’t my thing. The final item was banh xeo (crispy Hoi An pancakes), made with rice, mung beans, spring onions and coconut cream, and served with rice paper, green banana and star fruit. I didn’t really like this, but this was my fault as I think I used too much oil and this was all I could taste.
Overall I really enjoyed the experience and I think I would do it again. I learnt a lot about Vietnamese cooking, and we were given the recipes so we could attempt to try them at home (I haven’t). I would definitely recommend this class if you are heading to Hoi An, even if you don’t like cooking!
Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant and Cooking School
106 Nguyen Thai Hoc St, Hoi An, Vietnam. email@example.com
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