I’m back visiting my favourite place in all of Vietnam, the UNESCO jewel of Hoi An. Or as I like to refer to it – the foodie capital of Vietnam. Don’t get me wrong, everywhere in Vietnam serves up amazing fare, but Hoi An in particular is a culinary hot spot, with many of its own local specialties.
Experiencing a Vietnamese cooking class was high on my to-do list here, so the last few days I’ve been cycling around to see what’s on offer. There’s as many cooking classes here as there are restaurants, so it was a lengthy process. I turned to my favourite source for recommendations – other travel blogs – and very quickly decided on the Ms Vy – Taste Vietnam Cooking Class.
Ms Vy, a third generation chef and Hoi An local, has a string of very successful restaurants here in Hoi An, some of which are amongst my favourites (more on that in my next blog!). Her cooking classes are hugely popular, and appeared to be incredible value compared to those I’d already scouted out – so, I signed up!
The class took place in the new purpose built Vy’s Market Restaurant. Having done a few cooking classes previously, I was excited to see a different approach to the usual stainless steel benches and printed recipe cards. The restaurant has created a ‘street food’ approach to the way they both serve customers and instruct students, with food stations surrounding the central hub.
We were taken on a tour around the complex, visiting the different stations and being shown the fresh produce involved in the dish and how its used. Chefs would demonstrate how the dish was prepared, and then we were given the opportunity to have a go ourselves.
First up we had a go at making crispy pancakes or bahn xeo – a Hoi An specialty. The pancake batter is made from a mix of rice flour and mungbean flour with coconut cream, and flavoured with spring onions and turmeric. Fried up with shrimp and pork, the pancake is then transferred to rice paper where an array of fresh Vietnamese vegetables are layered on top, including starfruit, green banana slices and herbs. Rolled up in the rice paper and dunked in nuoc cham – a sweet and sour sauce – the crispy pancake was without a doubt one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. Ever!
Onto the grilled treats station and we devoured the most incredible BBQ pork and chicken skewers, (also one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten) before trying our hand at chopping some noodles for the traditional cao lau dish. Safe to say preparing noodles is not my forte…
Watching the staff prepare the ‘white rose’ or bahn vac dumpling was an incredible sight to see – the finesse in which they prepared the paper thin, spherical rice paper in seconds was amazing, before they popped a spoonful of spiced shrimp mix in the centre and pinched the dumplings together so it appeared as a rose.
We made fresh spring rolls next and I have to say how proud I was of my finished product. Spring rolls are something I attempted back at home from time to time and I would always fail miserably, over stuffing them, ripping the rice paper to shreds and then the end result never actually tasted any good. With the tips provided from our lovely instructor Tracy, I have to say my spring rolls were somewhat of a work of art.
It wouldn’t be a cooking class without being exposed to the weird and wonderful parts of the cuisine – and Vietnam has plenty – the Vy Market Restaurant even having a station called ‘Weird Wonderful Food’. On offer – steamed black pepper pig brain, duck egg embryo, spicy lemongrass frog and spicy tiny snails were just a few of the tasty morsels on the menu. I have to be honest and confess that I didn’t try anything – I was already feeling ill from eating too much and couldn’t stomach the thought of trying the dishes, despite my classmates declaring that ‘duck egg embryo is not that bad…’
Each to their own I guess…
We finished up the class by having a go at rolling out a bahn mi – the Vietnamese term for bread. Introduced by the French, the Vietnamese baguette is prepared fresh every day, and served with cold cuts, pate, cheese and vegetables – typically as a breakfast sandwich. I’ve never been much of a baker and it looks like nothing has changed, as I attempted and failed over and over to roll out a baguette with its perfectly pointy ends.
I had a ball attending this cooking class (and felt somewhat like one, as I rolled out of there…) and really enjoyed the unique learning environment. It was amazing to see the amount of skill and work involved in preparing the ingredients before creating the most flavoursome, fresh, delicious meals.
Vietnamese food is incredible – a wonderful change to the usual deep fried dishes that are common around the rest of Asia – and I’m so glad I have another week of eating my way around Hoi An to sample all it has to offer. Put it on your to do list for your next visit!
- How much is it and when can I go?
Miss Vy Taste Cooking Class runs three times a day, every day for two hours, at a cost of $25 USD per person – with a minimum of two people. There are also other classes on offer for the more serious foodie!
- How do I book?
You can either book online through the website here, or in person at any of the restaurants owned by Miss Vy.
- Do I get to try lots of things? Is it good value?
I don’t think I have ever eaten so much in two hours – you will be able to sample something from every single station at the restaurant, as well as cook four of your own dishes. In addition, icy cold fresh juices and flavoured waters are available for the duration of your class.