Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 25th – Cooking in Hoi An

I've always loved eating Vietnamese food, but I've never been very good at cooking it. That all changed today, because I am now an accomplished Vietnamese chef, after completing an excellent cookery class in the beautiful little town of Hoi An.

It's about an hour and a half's drive from the desolate port of Chan May to Hoi An, but you're transported to another world, of colourful, historic streets lined with clothes shops, souvenir stands and great restaurants. It's true that Hoi An is no longer the undiscovered gem that it once was, but it still retains plenty of charm along its pedestrianised streets – in fact, for me it's the most manageable town in Vietnam (even if the number of noisy motorbikes here has proliferated massively in the last few years).

Our tour took us round Hoi An's lively market, busy with locals buying up its exotic fruit and veg (and browsing the less-than-fragrant meat section), as we learnt about the essential ingredients of Vietnamese cuisine; before we headed to the cookery school to let the learning (and eating) begin.

We started with one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes – the wonderfully simple rice pancake roll. It's easy to make, but it's all down to the freshness of the tasty ingredients – obviously, it helps if someone else has kindly chopped them all up for you beforehand! We made pancakes stuffed with vegetables (delicious), chicken skewers to be barbequed for us (delightful), and a lovely fresh mango salad.

The best thing was that we ate each course as we made it (which was just as well as my mouth was watering as each creation came together), and I can honestly say that I don't think that I've cooked better food. If only I could have the ingredients prepared for me like this every time (and someone to wash it all up at the end too).

At the end of the course, we were all feeling a little sleepy (the cold beers helped with that), but it was time to do a bit more exploring of the town, so we braved the heat and trooped wearily round the atmospheric streets of Hoi An.

A great tour that hopefully will inspire me to create some more Vietnamese masterpieces when I get home.