Learning to Cook in Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam.
Yesterday was episode 2 in my ‘learning how to cook global takeover’. And it was AWESOME.
It was with the Thuan Tinh Island Cooking Tour.

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It started, as many asian cookery classes do; in the local market. It was raining and we got to wear delightful ponchos. It’s always great going around with the guides in the markets because everything is so colourful and different to what you can get at home, you finally get answers to the many questions you have. For me that is usually lots of pointing and “Oooh, what’s that?” “What do you do with it?” “Does it grow all year?” “Do YOU like it?”

Above is loads of herbs and ‘morning Glory’ – it’s really popular and its like a long-stemmed spinach, but with a milder flavour. It’s really good and is usually served with soya sauce and lots of garlic. As well as the ponchos, we were given little granny bags to carry the food that we were buying. I got to carry the beef bones for the Pho Bo (the beef noodle soup that was the main dish I have been waiting to learn how to cook). The massive plates below are fresh noodles.

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Then we went on a boat ride to a fishing village (45mins away) where the river meets the sea. Here are a couple of pictures to set the scene…
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We learnt how to cook 4 dishes:

Banh Xeo
Crispy Vietnamese Crepes filled with pork and shrimp, bean sprouts and green onion. Served with lettuce leaves, fresh herbs and nuoc
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This is me having the best day ever at COOKING SCHOOL!!!
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The Banh Xeo tasted amazing and I will definitely be making them when we get back home. They serve them at loads of street vendors here in Hoi An and each place they are slightly different. Some places add an egg inside so it’s more of an omlette, but this type is the best I have had yet.

Bun Bo Nam Bo
Herb salad with rice vermicelli and sautéed beef, topped with roasted peanuts and hot soy sauce vinaigrette.
This was seriously good, and it uses lots of fish sauce, beef stock (broth from boiled beef bones) for the vinagerette. the salad with hot sauce is a great clash of fresh and tangy – not just an ordinary salad that’s for sure! Quite a bit of prep but worth it. As you can see…
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Goi Cuon
Fresh Rice Paper Salad Rolls with Pork and Shrimp with a Tangy Peanut Hoisin Dipping Sauce.
I wont talk much about these as they are similar to the fresh Nem that I made in Cambodia (see this link for that post).
the main difference is that these have rice noodles inside too, which I actually prefer and also the peanut sauce was a bit spicy and not sweet – so went really well (not a sticky satay sauce). They look so elegant and are easy to eat too, aka, not messy like most finger food. I could quite happily sit and make lots for a party or something, it’s a really nice process.
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The packet above is the rice paper you need to buy to make these salad rolls – just gently pat with water to make them soft, ready to roll. If you wet them too much they just go into a sticky mess.

Pho Bo Hanoi
Beef rice noodle soup infused with beef bones, cinnamon, ginger and star anise.
Honestly, the flavour of this broth is one of the best things I have tasted so far. It’s earthy, warming and has so many layers of flavour its hard to get this across to you without also handing you a bowl to try for yourself. Basically, it’s GOOD!
You flame the spices first, then crush garlic and shallots, then season and add bones, add lots of water, and simmer for 2 hours.
When ready to eat, use a small sieve and dip your beef strips into the broth for a minute to cook, then dip in the bean sprouts and noodles (30 seconds max) – put in a bowl and pour over the broth (take out the bones and spices from the broth after the 2 hours of simmering time)
And here’s us making it:
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The lack of artiness in the last picture was because I started eating it and then remembered I had to take the picture, my stomach took over by that point.
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I also learnt a very embarrassing fact that peanuts grow like this (see above) It’s not a NUT!
Anyway, it was a great day, full of flavours and epic eating stamina (we ate everything we cooked). Well worth the twenty pounds that it cost.
I hope it inspires you to try some Vietnamese cuisine, you wont regret it. Sorry there isn’t any recipes online here as I had to post them to the UK before I could blog about it, but I’m sure there are lots online you can find. Any questions, let me know and I’ll try to help! Happy Eating! x

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One thought on “Learning to Cook in Vietnam

  1. Pingback: The Cuisine of Vietnam: Touring in search of Asian spice | Global Buzz

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