If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam, you absolutely must find time to fit in a cooking class when you’re there. Vietnamese food is arguably the most alluring draw of Vietnam (for me at least) and immersing yourself in a class where local cooks explain their way of life is an incredible way to learn about the local culture and history.
My brother Mark, who went to Vietnam years ago, insisted we sign up at the same place he did, Ms Vy’s Cooking School. Ms Vy is a local restauranteur in Hoi An who’s restaurants are incredibly popular and sometimes difficult to get a table at. She also runs an incredibly organized and professional cooking school where the learning is beyond just the kitchen and that’s what makes this school so special.
Our class started at Vy’s Market Restaurant and Cooking School for a meet and greet before venturing to the pier to hop on a boat to the local market. There, our tour guide walked us through the various stalls explaining the local produce some of which we had eaten before and many that were entirely new and exotic.
We learned about how they are commonly prepared as well as the local kitchen tools that are used to prepare them. We also ventured through the seafood stalls curiously discovering some local fish I had never seen before.
Back at the cooking school after the market, we toured Vy’s Market Restaurant which operates like an indoor hawker market with different stalls cooking and serving its own specialty. We sampled different popular Vietnamese dishes like Bahn Mi and Banh Cuon while watching and learning how the dish is made.
In our private classroom equipped with burners at each station, our teacher walked us step by step through 4 delicious Vietnamese dishes that we got to enjoy after for lunch. Honestly, it was one of our favourite meals in Hoi An and this is the delicious grilled chicken that we learned how to make.
(Photo by Adrienne Uy)
My sister and I recreated The BBQ Chicken and Lime Leaf over the summer when we threw a Summer Roll Party. We prepared an assembly of pre-soaked rice paper sheets, a carrot and papaya salad, lettuce, rice noodles, fresh Thai basil, fresh mint, shredded carrots, sliced cucumbers and this delicious, BBQ Chicken and Lime Leaf for everyone to assemble their own. It was interactive, fun, and a delicious way to gather together and eat. The bonus? Throwing it all together and cleaning up was a cinch.
In addition to the BBQ Chicken and Lime Leaf, these were the other components of our Summer Roll party:
- Papaya Salad, recipe below (or Carrot and Pomelo Salad)
- Sliced cucumbers
- Shredded or julienned carrots
- Pre-soaked rice noodles
- Pre-soaked rice sheets
- Poached shrimp, cooked, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- Lettuce leaves
- Thai basil
- Thai mint
- Lime wedges
- Dipping Sauce, recipe below
- Chopped, roasted peanuts for garnishing
Alternatively, for a simple dinner just enjoy it with a Papaya Salad (or Carrot and Pomelo Salad) and a bowl of Garlic Rice.
P.S. If you’re going to Hoi An, I highly suggest staying at the La Siesta Hotel and Spa Hoi An where we had an amazing time thanks to the hotel staff’s exceptional service. If you stop by Hanoi like we did, check out 72 Hours in Hanoi 2017 where I compiled all the delicious, local favourites that we discovered.
What you need:
800g boneless chicken thighs, skin off
1/3 cup fresh turmeric or 1 T ground turmeric
1/3 cup lemongrass, pounded
1 tsp sea salt
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1/2 tsp five spice
4 lime leaves, sliced finely
2 T garlic, pounded
2 T shallots, pounded
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp sesame oil
1 T fish sauce
8 wooden skewers soaked in water for an hour
What to do:
1.Cut thighs into 16 pieces. Place in a bowl. Add salt, sugar, black pepper and five spice. Mix well. Pound turmeric, add to chicken with garlic, shallots, lemongrass, chilli, lime leaves, sesame oil and fish sauce. Mix well, you may want to wear plastic gloves to stop your hands turning yellow if using fresh turmeric.
2. Marinate 30 minutes. Thread 2 pieces onto each skewer. Grill 4-5 minutes on each side on a low heat.
120 g shredded green papaya
1 T carrot, shredded
1 cup Vietnamese mint, coriander, anise, basil leaves
3 tsp lime juice
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp shallot oil
1 T mild red chilli and garlic, pounded
1 1/2 T roasted peanuts, chopped
What to do:
1. Make crispy fried shallots and shallot oil by slicing 200 grams of shallots thinly sliced and placed to dry in the sun for 2 hours or in a 100 oven for 15 minutes with the door slightly ajar. Heat 2 cups vegetable oil until warm, add sliced shallots and fry slowly on low heat for 10 minutes until the shallots have turned a light golden colour. Turn off and drain on a paper towel. When cooled, store in an airtight container. Pour shallot oil into a jar and store in a cool place. It will keep for 1 month.
2. Place papaya, carrots and 2/3 cup herbs in a bowl, toss well with your hands.
3. In a small bowl place lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, shallot oil, chilli and garlic mix, stir well to dissolve. Pour into salad mix and toss well.
Summer Roll Dipping Sauce
Recipe from Mark Bittman
What you need:
1 small fresh chile, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 T rice wine vinegar or other mild vinegar
1 T nam pla (Thai fish sauce) or soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp minced garlic
What to do:
Combine together in a bowl.