#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


#ProjectMVietnam – Hoi An Bicycle Tour

We hopped onto our bikes to explore Hoi An’s picturesque countryside.

Excuse the outfit, when you live out of a backpack you can easily achieve the dishevelled ‘gap yah’ style.

I would recommend hopping onto a organised bike tour because part of the money from your fare goes to the local people that you visit.

And you get to do this:


Just watering my crops and going back to my roots, (ha, get it?).

Our tour guide announced, “Girls, it’s time to ride a buffalo!”.

Yes, a buffalo.

I have a story to share with you about my buffalo experience. This one is a charmer.

I perch my bum onto this buffalo’s back.

I stared into the distance — into layers of rice fields as they gathered over the horizon. I was content. Then out of nowhere, Mr Buffalo Man stands up and starts chanting some Vietnamese opera song.

Then the buffalo starts pooping in the water, whilst I’m still on it.

Then the buffalo man (somehow) encouraged me sing along to his song!

Everything happened so fast that when it was time to get off, I was like, what…what just happened?
I survived!

We love you buffalo & buffalo man!

Our last stop on the bike ride was this beautiful beach.

The perfect place to reflect on our wonderful tour.

If that wasn’t enough, we were taken onto a boat back to Hoi An: Old Town. This was our view whilst we floated across layers of black silk.

Before heading to the land of nod, we were absolutely staving!

The food in Hoi An is beyond ridiculous. We ordered a three-course meal and this was the starter. Who gives you three plates for a starter?!


Like seriously, Hoi An, you’re spoiling me!

My main man dish arrived: chicken in banana leaf. I needed someone to roll me out when the banana and chocolate pancake made an appearance.

Stuffed and a bit tipsy, it was time to head back to our hotel to visit the land of nod.

By this point, I thought I was a giddy fairy and flew under this pretty gateshead outside of the hotel.

Goodnight, Hoi An, you light up my heart.

Location: Vietnam – Hoi An

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#ProjectMVietnam | Huế

For those of you who have been flying over to my blog, I was taking you through my South East Asian adventures. I took a break to write about New York. Now I’m going to fly you out of the concrete jungle and get you stuck back into Vietnam!

If you like authentic Vietnamese food as much as I do, get your a** down to Huế.

Huế is renowned for it’s food history. I spotted many Huế themed eateries in the bigger cities like Saigon and Hanoi.

During the Nguyen Dynasty years, the kings were fussy for their food. Nervous chefs churned out (ever-changing) 52-course meals. Yep, that’s right: 52. If anyone wants to cook 52-course meals for me, I think I’d fall in love with you (bonus points if you rolled me out).

I forgot to take a picture of this interesting quail and duck egg dish that we ate, so let’s start this post with my pretty chicken fried rice that I can’t believe, I remembered to take a snap of.

 Huế is a sleepy city, it’s famous for it’s heavy rains, sleepy pace and pagodas. The relaxed atmosphere is perfect for taking your motorbike for a spin. And we did just that. In Vietnam you don’t need a license to drive one. But none of us felt like visiting the grim reaper that day, so our lovely tour guides were the experts in giving us the grand tour of their home town.

For our first stop, we were taken to a film set.

I definitely got my geek on (I put my glasses on for closer inspection and everything).

Our second stop was the Tomb of Tu Duc and guess who designed it? Emperor, Tu Duc. Built by his slaves at his imperial empire (Mr promiscuous had 104 wives), it’s certainly one of the most impressive of the royal mausoleums.

We said goodbye to the Emperor and headed to the Perfume River.

Why is it called Perfume River? You might ask.

If you’re into your floral fragrances like Dior Cherie, Chanel Chance and Marc Jacobs Oh Lola, then you’ll love this. In the Autumn, flowers from the orchards upriver from Huế fall into the water, giving the river a perfume-like natural aroma.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to stand and admire this river in the cool, light air.

Our next stop was to visit this lovely lady to begin our incense making workshop.

It’s actually a lot harder than it looks, you need to be firm, but not too firm, with the poo-like dough on a stick.

I did it! I’m so impressed with myself.

Our lady of many talents, also showed us how she makes the traditional Vietnamese hat.

Unfortunately I don’t think my handmade piece made the cut. Hehe.

The next day, we headed to Hue Imperial City (The Citadel), a fortress that (historically) separated the digs of the Royals and the ‘commoners’. It’s a very strange concept to visit a mini city inside a city.

Once I got inside, I was mesmerised. It felt like walking into a completely different era. Once I spotted the palace and oriental gardens, I decided to live there. I had to put my princess dream to rest as the venue closed at 5pm.


With the help of a peeping turtle and a golden lion, this princess lived happy ever after.

Location: Vietnam – Huế

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#ProjectMNYC – The Markets of New York

If you’re a foodie, lover of vintage, flowers and thrift stores, or hell, a resident of a city, then you know how much we love a good street market.

There are two markets I urge you to visit in New York. Dear Reader, meet my two New Yorker friends: Williamsburg and Chelsea.

We have two very different personalities here. I’ll introduce you to Williamsburg first.

Williamsburg market is the hipster of the market gang. He (William) is the king of distinctive trends and thrift.

Go and check out his no-one-else-has-it apparel: real silks & leathers, downtown-cool jewels, literacy book clutches and dapper kicks.

If you’re ever with me, wherever you are, I will point you in the direction of the food.

We were in search of a bite to eat. There was only one problem.

There was too much choice.

Lobster rolls, anyone?

 Saucy (Williams)BURGer?

Parm slider?

(Parmigiana is breaded chicken breast covered with a tomato-based neapolitan sauce and cheese).

 I can’t remember what these were, but they looked delicious! Help me out and comment below, please?

 We walked, and we strolled and then we found what we were searching for in our lives at that time.

Hola Mexican Comida!

 One of my favourite cuisines is Mexican. I never got over a burrito that I once demolished in California. If you’re ever in the US, and you can handle spice, please, please try a burrito from a street market or Mexican food truck. I promise you, it will blow your head off (in a good way), and you will always be craving that burrito (or taco). I’m writing this from London, and I’m desperate for one right now. The secret is in the chilli sauce. It’s Mexican magic.

Cool off with some good ole homemade lemonade.

 Then for dessert, treat yourself to these big a** American donuts. They don’t do food by halves in the US.

 Right, now I’ve introduced you to Williamsburg. It’s time to meet Chelsea.

She’s a little more upmarket than our Willie.

So, I’m walking aimlessly through Chelsea market, and this catches the corner of my eye.

 How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the waggly icing. (Sorry I had to).

Beep beep beep, it’s a Minion cake!

 Amy’s Bread is apparently a must for pastries and bread. I gave it a miss this time because I was after something else, which I’ll get to.


Chelsea Market’s most quintessential dish — it’s the one and only steamed whole lobster from Lobster Place. The super-fresh Maine lobsters are gently steamed and served with a simple slip of butter and wedges of lemon.

It gets busy, and you probably won’t get a seat. But, it’s a surreal experience to squat with tourists and chomp on a big lobster each, together.

Now, I can’t serve you the main course and recommend you a dessert can I?

My cousin took me to Doughnuttery. It’s like a Subway for donuts. You pick the different sugars according to your taste. I went for a few different ones like Urban Monkey (banana, coconut and coffee powdered sugars), Peanut Butter&Jelly (peanut butter and grape candy) and Matcha (green tea & sugar).

I didn’t get to take a picture because I, erm, was occupied (I ordered several donuts and stuffed them in my mouth all at once).

I wanted to take this baby home.

 Yes. I know what you’re thinking. You want to grab a spoon and join me. Oh I like the way you think.

Chelsea Market is the former home to the famous National Biscuit Company. I would recommend you give New York biscuits a try. They’re much more crumbly than in the UK.

Chelsea Market does have an eccentric side to her. There’s an Artists & Fleas seasonal pop-up bazaar. Expect to find trendy and non-commercial gifts, locally made and well crafted.

 *Phew*. I think we all deserve some margaritas after all of that walking.

Have you been to any of the markets of New York? Let me know if I’ve missed anything so we can all share places to go!

Location: New York

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