Here’s what I consider the most enjoyable thing I did on this trip: take a Vietnamese cooking class at the Hanoi Cooking Centre for US$45.
As they say, after you fall in love with the food, you gotta learn how to make ’em. I enrolled at the Hanoi Cooking Centre because of the good reviews this establishment got from travellers on Trip Advisor. The center’s owner, Tracey Lister, is an Australian who chose to settle in Hanoi and establish an informal school, with a coffeeshop on the second floor. She is also the author of the coffeetable book Koto: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam.
Our four-hour class on “The Food of Hanoi” started with a tour of the Chau Long Market where Tracey introduced to us the various ingredients needed to cook Vietnamese food. I was really impressed because the market didn’t smell! Tracey attributed this to the freshness of all the ingredients. The fish and seafood on sale didn’t even need refrigeration or iodine.
What we learned in class: how to make banana flower salad, seafood spring rolls, caramel pork ( a Hanoi specialty) and black sesame seed and peanut che (local dessert made of black sesame seed with brown sugar & coconut milk.
I liked our salad. Banana flower is usually simmered with coconut milk in the Philippines. But used in this salad, it provides the right tartness and crispiness.And am glad the dressing can also be used in other vegetables like green papaya.
With the extra ingredients we bought in the market, we were also taught bonus recipes for making crab soup and vegetable omelet by Tracey’s able assistant Tuyen.
The crab soup was very tasty and so was the “greens” omelet” with chili salt dipping sauce.
The good thing about this class was the company. They were all round-the-world travellers! Basia just came back from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and Russell and Kelly just finished their jungle adventure in the Amazon. There was also a nice couple from Hong Kong (whose names I forgot). I felt like the timid tourist next to them. We spent time chatting over lunch after the class.
Hanoi Cooking Centre
44 Chau Long Street
Ba Dinh District, Ha Noi
+84 4 3715 0088, +84 4 3715 3277