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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Vietnam | Hoi An Cooking Class

Updated: Mar 24, 2021

This morning we attended at cooking class at one of the local restaurants. We arrived a little before 10 a.m. and we started preparing several dishes. It was just the two of us and the instructor, who spoke good English. We started off by making Garlic & Lemongrass fish wrapped in banana leaves. I actually cut the whole raw fish and prepared it, and they had us slice up the various different ingredients and smash them in the mortar and pestle. We had to wrap the fish up in the banana leaves and then grill it for about 20 minutes.

We also made fried vegetable spring rolls, garlic-onion spinach, fried squid with lemongrass, garlic and chili, and our favorite, the fried wontons with the tomato and pineapple sauce.

She did use a couple of ingredients that we don't normally use back home, like choko (a cucumber-like potato), for the spring rolls but she told us that we could use sweet potato instead at home. She was also helpful in telling us how to make the fresh spring rolls, which use a different kind of rice paper that you just steam the paper and vegetables before rolling up. As we were making the wontons, she brought out some pre-made wontons. We asked her if she makes these and she told us that there is only one family in the Hoi An area that makes these and they then supply to all the eateries; then each restaurant just makes their own sauce. She said this is the same with the special noodles used for the Cao Lau dish as well. My guess is that those families are pretty well off if they are the only ones making those specialty type foods.

Since we started a little early we were done cooking by 11:00 and could then enjoy our creations. At that point we were wishing that we hadn't ate breakfast that morning because there was so much yummy food sitting in front of us! However, between the two of us we managed to eat most of it. But we definitely didn't have to eat very much the rest of the day...

Since we were there in the morning we also were able to watch them prepare for the day. Each of the vendors would stop by and drop off their different items. One man dropped off a bag of fresh vegetables and another the bottles of beer. It is pretty amazing what they can do with such basic utilities and food. The kitchen is so basic and they just have a hot burner attached to a gas tank to cook and their grill is one of the small ones people would use back home for camping with charcoal inside. They use pans of water to wash the dishes in as well; in some ways it is very primitive. Luckily they shared the recipes and the instructions with us so we can make the delicious recipes when we get home!

Flight to Hanoi

That afternoon we caught a flight to Hanoi for $36, which we were excited about because it is only an hour of transportation compared to 16+ hours on either the bus or train. Plus, it was roughly the same price for both options. An added bonus was that the hostel we booked in Hanoi will also pick us up at the airport for free since we are staying 2 nights. Can't beat those cheap prices for airfare! However, when we stepped off the plane in our shorts and tank tops in Hanoi we were immediately chilled. The temperature here was about 20 degrees cooler than what it was in Hoi An! We weren't planning on it being this cold. But luckily with the free airport service transportation, so we were taken right to our hostel.

Hot Pot = Money Pot

After checking in at the hostel, we decided to go out for a "cheap" dinner because we had spent the extra money on the flight, so we headed out to look for a place. We looked at a variety of places and most of the restaurants were priced higher than many of the previous cities we had been in. We stumbled across a street vendor serving Hot Pot and we figured since it was a street restaurant that it would be cheap -- boy, were we wrong! It ended up being the most expensive meal we've had in Vietnam thus far at 230,000 VD (about $13 USD); so much for our cheap meal idea...

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