Fresh spring rolls, fried spring rolls, noodle soup, pancakes, sea food salad, 5 spices stirred beef, chicken curry in coconut milk, …
Choosing something from Van’s list of 68 Vietnamese dishes seemed impossible. You see when we heard that Vietnam offers some of the best food in South East Asia – always believe a Thai taxi driver who says Vietnam has amazing food – we decided to look for a cooking class to learn more about the local cuisine.
The Green Bamboo cooking class in Hoi An was the perfect match. Van organises courses for small groups in her own kitchen. The perfect place to uncover some the secrets of Vietnamese cooking. Or as we say, get ready for some “Vietnjamnjamnjam”.
Secret 1: Buy fresh ingredients from the market
Vietnamese dishes are famous for their fresh herbs so Van always starts her cooking class with a visit to the market. So put on your rice hat and let’s go shopping! And shopping with Van doesn’t just mean buying but a lot of tasting too. First, we had to gather the essential herbs and spices: turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, chili, lime, mint, coriander and basil.
We also bought fresh coconut milk and grated coconut. “We aren’t going to buy coconut milk in a tin. I’m going to teach you how to make your own coconut milk”, says Van. She also taught us to distinguish fresh meat and fish from the ones you’ll probably end up sick from: “Look for the meat with the dark red color and no flies on it. The meat that has turned pink or even brownish is no longer fresh.” But when it comes to shrimps we had to look for the ones with a green color on the back side. Those are the ones who are brought in fresh in the morning.
Secret 2: Good food tastes better when it looks good.
After shopping we arrived at Van’s house where we picked up our chopping boards and big ass knifes. Luckily, Van showed us how to use them to clean squid without turning her kitchen into an ink massacre. Van held up two slices of carrot. One was a simple round slice. The other one had been turned into a flower. “Which one do you like best?” asked Van. All of us pointed out the flower. “Good food not only tastes good, it looks good too” said Van.
Time to use some magic tools! Van handed out a double-bladed knife that make it possible to slice onions and peppers into super thin slices as well as a grate that could make vegetable spaghetti. Our food looked like a professional chef had done all the chopping. Oh and we totally bought the tools for impressing our friends back home.
Secret 3: It’s all about balancing flavours.
Time to season the ingredients. A good Vietnamese dish balances sweet, sour and spicy. Though I’m pretty sure they put emphasis on the spicy element. Van learned us how to make the perfect dipping sauce for fresh spring rolls:
– Squeeze 2 limes
– Mix in 2 tablespoons of sugar.
– Add 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic.
– Finish off with chopped chili to your own flavour.
Secret 4: Have a lot of fun.
Cooking with Van is also about having fun and some good laughs. San was named the Queen of flip for perfectly flipping pancakes up in the air. And flambéing shrimps with vodka became a one shot for me one for the shrimps kinda thing. The showcooking element certainly had us cracking up a few times.
Secret 5: Make too much food.
Vietnamese hosts usually make too much food to make sure no one leaves the table hungry. The same can be said for this cooking course. I ate so much good food (11 different dishes!), I didn’t eat for the rest of the day. But I wouldn’t mind returning to try the other 57 dishes!
Contact: Green Bamboo
Price: 880.000 VND p.p.
The pick-up from your hotel + all food and drinks are included.
We even got a recipe book, a pair of chopsticks and a free grate.