Once again I’ve spent a day on my own immersing in the local cuisine. It’s definitely one of my favorite things to do and Hoi An offered a perfect opportunity.
http://msvy-tastevietnam.com/ Ms. Vy’s Cooking school is also a restaurant, known throughout the region. I found it online and the reviews were exceptional so I signed up. But I wanted to do something a little different. I did not want to be in a large group so I chose the class that included a morning bicycle ride.
My suspicion that fewer people would sign up for a cooking class that also involves cycling was correct! Thankfully! Our group was just six plus our very
nice and knowledgeable guide Bo. I was definitely the oldest person on the tour, probably by more than twenty years. But no worries. I certainly know my way around a bicycle and held my own on the
little one speed bikes we used for our tour.
The cycling portion of our tour started in the morning and took us to the local market where we learned about some interesting fruit and vegetable, seafood, beef, pork and chicken. The meat at this market was the
freshest I have seen anywhere in Asia, no flies and pink and firm. Our guide told us this particular meat and seafood market starts each day at 4am with the catch of the day and ends in the early afternoon.
Next we cycled through the rice paddies and learned about this important but fast changing industry in
Vietnam. Families still farm their rice plots keeping half the crop and selling half. Some years two crops are produced and some years three. But the younger generation does not want to farm the rice and many changes are on the horizon for this ancient lifestyle.
We continued our tour through a beautiful and large area where all the fresh produce for the city is grown on plots managed by both families and government.
The gardens where meticulously tended and we met some of the elders who have been farming the land for decades.
Our final stop on the bikes was to learn how bean
sprouts are grown from a local man at his home. I had never seen this before and it was fascinating. The sprouts are grown in sand, in the dark. They germinate very quickly and are ready for harvest in only three or four days. The sprouts are grown from inexpensive Mung beans. The quick-growing crop and low overhead makes this a very profitable industry for this old farmer whose tiny plot is his
We rode back to the cooking school where we spent an hour watching several demonstrations including the master White Rose maker (dumpling), rice noodles, Cau Lao noodles (local specialty) and
tasted some strange foods including jellyfish salad and silkworm salad.
And then it was time to cook. Spending the morning learning so much about the ingredients made it especially fun to cook the local treats. The White Rose dumpling takes some practice to make it look beautiful, forming it by hand. Mine was pretty messy on the first try but it still tasted delicious.
Cau Lao is Hoi An’s signature noodle dish with pork and a rich delicious broth. I’ve had this dish a few
times already and I love it. We spent more than an hour putting this dish together and it was the best I’ve eaten yet.
Rice paper roll, called Summer Roll (not fried), is
made slightly different here than in other places I’ve had it. Filled with greens, bean sprouts, pork, shrimp, jicama and a crunchy deep-fried egg roll. These summer rolls were easy, refreshing and yummy.
The final dish we learned to make is the famous
Vietnamese fried pancake that is served rolled inside rice paper. This is street food designed to eat as you walk. The pancake is made from a rice flour batter with pork and shrimp. Fried til crispy brown then rolled with bean sprouts into the rice paper.
It was such a fun day with a cornucopia of Vietnam filling all my senses! The sights, smells, sounds and tastes combined for both an educational and entertaining experience. I will be testing these recipes on my family very soon!
And the good news is, we still have a week left in beautiful Hoi An! Including a food tour coming up in a few days!