#ProjectMVietnam – Cooking Class in Vietnam

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a Food Presenter.

I’d watch a foodie channel, interrupt the show with my mouth full of spag bol’ and I’d vent “…you lucky sods, I want to travel the world and eat all the foods!”.

When our tour guide mentioned the option of taking a cooking class in Hoi An, I instantly jumped up with my best oh-pick-me-pick-me-please face.

Welcome to the Lantern, a cafe/restaurant charged with fuschia flower trees. We were guided upstairs, where the fun begins.

Our teachers introduced themselves (a brother and sister, from a wonderful family business) and guided us to the local bustling fresh food market.

After our educational food tour, we were taken to our cooking station.

I apologise in advance for my s**t quality photos, my iPhone just didn’t agree with the lighting.

Because I love that you’re reading my Blog, I’m going share Hoi An’s authentic recipes with you.

Ok, let’s begin.

First dish: Bánh Xèo. A thin, crispy, very light pancake filled with pork, prawn and veggies. Roll over to my homestay post for juicy details of my love affair with this dish. “Xèo” refers to the sizzling sound it makes when you fry it. The name loosely means “sizzling cake.”

To make enough for four hungry friends, you’ll need:

0.6kg pork belly
180g jumbo king prawns
400g pancake flour
4 cups water
1 cup of coconut cream
10g spring onion – sliced
Half of an onion – sliced into thins
200g shrimps
500g bean sprouts
1tsp Turmeric
1 Handful of fresh mint
1 Handful of fresh coriander
1 Handful of fresh bean sprouts
1 Handful of lettuce
2tsp vegetable oil
(20) Vietnamese soft rice paper (optional)

Pop the pork belly in boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Slice thinly and set aside. Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water. Set that aside too.

Prepare the batter by mixing the flour with water, coconut cream, turmeric and spring onions.

You’re going to fry one pancake at a time, so don’t go crazy and throw all the meat in the pan (I was hungry and keen).

In a frying pan, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Toss in the onions and then a portion of pork belly and king prawns. (For one pancake, I put in about a tablespoonful of pork and prawns). Fry until cooked.

Pour a cup full of the batter mixture into the pan over the meat, quickly tilt the pan, so the mixture spreads thinly.

Add a spoonful of bean sprouts on the pancake.

Here’s a little tip, to stop the edges from sticking to the pan, brush a little oil around the edge of the pancake.

Once the mixture is clear over the edges, fold one-half the pancake over and slip it onto a plate.

Get your greens in and fill up the pancake with a lettuce and chopped up cucumber.

It’s not mandatory but wrap it up in rice paper if you wish to give it that extra crunch.

Taa-dah! Can you just feel that concentration?

Hands down, best roll I’ve ever, ever, eaten. I promise you, I’m not just saying that because I made it.

The Vietnamese Dipping Sauce can also be whipped up ahead; it’s easy to make, so while you’re on a roll (ha) why not get started?!

Fish Sauce 100ml
Rice Vinegar 100ml
Brown Sugar 100ml
Water 170ml

Mix all above in a bowl (preferably in the above order) and stir well. Optional: add chopped garlic, chilli, basil and crispy onions to taste.

Best of all, the sauce goes with all of the dishes in this post.

Next dish: Papaya Salad, who’s best friend is Vietnamese spring rolls (I’ll get to those bad boys later).

1 large green papaya
1 large carrot
2 shallots
2 chillies
A packet of basil leaves
Handful of roasted peanuts
Shred the green papaya and carrot finely into strips. Use your Spiralizer to make lovely swirls (or a knife will do).

Cut the shallots into little cubes.

Add it to a mixing bowl.

Add finely cut chillies to taste.

Drizzle with the Vietnamese dipping sauce and mix well.

Top with basil leaves and roasted peanuts.

I just wanted to stick my head into it. When a dish is bursting with colour, you know it’s good.

Hoi An, Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls. These spring rolls are different to Chinese spring rolls; the coating is netted — so they’re the ultimate level of crispy.

You’ll need:
Vietnamese netted rice paper
100g glass noodles
200g minced pork
Handful of Wood Ear mushrooms
1 carrot
1 onion
Handful of spring onions
1 garlic bulb
Salt & pepper to taste

Shred the carrots, Wood Ear mushrooms, onions and spring onions into thin strips. Brine and then cut up the glass noodles into 2cm pieces.

Throw all of the cut-up veggies into mixing bowl and add the pork mince.

Squash garlic cloves and pop that into the bowl.

Get your hands dirty and mix well.

Remove rice papers from its packaging. If the papers are dry or hard, use a damp cloth or place a wet paper towel beneath them.

Fold one edge about 3cm, put about 1 tbsp of filling on top of the closed area. Then roll up to create a tube.

Heat up some oil (I use sunflower) for the spring rolls to be deep fried. Fry for about 2-3 minutes.

Enjoy and let me know how utterly satisfied you feel.

Vietnamese Grilled Fish — a dish wrapped up cosy in banana leaf.

You’ll need:
200g fresh tuna steak
Green banana leaf (3 x 30cm pieces)
1 egg
Handful of Wood Ear mushrooms
Handful of shallots
1/4 of an onion
Handful of spring onions
1 carrot
10g glass (vermicelli) noodles (soak in warm water and cut the pieces so they are about 1.5 inches)
Chopped fresh garlic (1 bulb)
1 fresh turmeric
2tsp turmeric oil
1 fresh chilli (or more to taste)
Salt & pepper to taste

Slice the tuna into bite size pieces.

Slice the Wood Ear mushrooms, shallots, spring onions, carrots, garlic, turmeric and chilli into thin pieces.

Pop all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl

Mix it up and form a flat paste.

Grab the patty and place it onto three layers of banana leaf (to avoid burning our fishy dishy)

Pop it under the grill on a low setting for 15 minutes.

Take it out and devour. This dish is regularly served with rice. I warn you, once you take that first bite, you won’t be able to stop.

As a class, we demolished our delicious banquet, which, of course, tastes better when you made it yourself.

Incredibly fresh, authentic Vietnamese flavours, hugely rich in protein, antioxidants and Vitamin C.

I have no doubt that all three dishes will fill you up.

I dare you to give them a try and let me know what you think.

The cooking class was exactly how I dreamt it to be, even better perhaps.

If you’ve at any point yelled ‘ah, I would love to do that’, then Real Food Adventure – Vietnam is the one for you.

I would also point you in the direction of Mexico Food & Culture or Real Food Adventure – India (because they are basically on my list). If you fancy somewhere closer to home: Local Living Italy looks like fun. Can’t decide? A full list is here.

Location: Vietnam – Hoi An