Learning How to Cook Local Cuisine
Taking a local cooking class during a trip to Vietnam is a popular activity, and many travellers put it on the agenda during a stay in the country. To be honest, cooking has never been a pastime that I enjoy very much and I happily admit that I am one of those mums that like to go out for dinner or have a take away… However, the rest of the family both love cooking meals and messing about in the kitchen baking cakes. When we checked into our hotel, the Allamanda Estate, I knew they offered a lot of complimentary perks, such as a free massage each day, but when they asked us if we wanted to do a cooking class we were surprised. Having enjoyed all kinds of Vietnamese cuisine over the previous three weeks of our trip, we thought why not try to learn how to cook a three course menu of the local dishes.
Buying the Ingredients at the Local Market
Our chef, Tony Bao, was already waiting for us after breakfast on our last morning in Hoi An. In order to cook a proper meal, he said that selecting and buying the ingredients is perhaps the important part of cooking. Bikes at the ready we cycled into town to get some of the fruit and vegetables from the local market needed for our dishes. The menu was for banana flower salad, followed by fresh summer rolls and fish fried in banana leaves. Once we had parked our bikes Tony guided us into the maze of stalls in the market. He started by explaining ingredients that we needed to buy and asked us to keep an eye out for them. Having him lead us through the market was en entirely different experience to our visit a few days before. We were able to ask him about certain fruits and vegetables that were unknown to us as westerners and he also informed us about the usage of some of the fruit and herbs as natural remedies and cosmetics.
The Ladies at the Market Stall
Tony surely knew some of the ladies at the market stalls from years of cooking and he knew exactly where to get what we needed. We bought banana flowers, mint and basil for the salad. It still amazes me that a stall might only sell one or two items and can make a living from the income. We stood to watch one of the women peel and carve a pineapple with a large knife. The end result was almost a piece of art and not one I would ever be able to accomplish. Once we had finished our shopping and tour we returned on our bicycles to the hotel.
Cooking a Three Course Meal
There we found a table already laid with all the necessary ingredients for our three-course meal. The kitchen staff had prepared them for us while we were at the market. Dressed in our apron we were able to start cooking. Tony guided us through the different steps and the dishes seemed to take form in front of our eyes. The hardest part by far were the summer rolls, as getting the rice paper to the right consistency, not too hard but also not too wet, seemed a challenge, and making the so they would not break was hard! Jerome struggled the most, he was a bit too generous with the filling and I proudly confess mine were the neatest.
Eating our Tasty Food
Obviously the best part comes last, sitting down at the laid table to eat our tasty food. I am not sure I will ever cook the meal at home, especially considering there are many amazing Vietnamese restaurants in London, but the cooking class was definitely an unusual and interesting experience for us. Tony was a great guide and he shared a lot of his knowledge about Vietnamese cuisine and ingredients.
Last Hours at Allamanda Estate
Our stay in Hoi An and the peaceful Allamanda Estate came to an end after our cooking class. We bridged the time until our taxi would collect us and drive to Da Nang Airport with some time by the pool and Jerome had another go at the palm leaf boat on the lily pond.
Last 24 Hours in Vietnam
Then it was time to say goodbye to the friendly staff at our hotel. The countdown to our last 24 hours in Vietnam started and we spent them by discovering another part of Hanoi that we had not previously visited…
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