Hanoi Cooking Class & Vietnamese Cuisine Recipes

The homestyled cooking class (US$35) organised by Awesome Travel (a little on the nose, isn't it??) was highly recommended by a friend. The fact that this was the only highlight of a trip that he'd hated said volumes.

Credit has to be given to this cooking class, which was instrumental in inculcating my new-found love for Vietnamese cuisine.  I never knew Vietnamese food could be this varied, or this delicious! With a strong focus on a symmetry of the yin and yang, all that we ate was just so light and fresh and scrumptious. This was very much clean eating at its finest.

There are 2 classes each day; the first from 9am to 2pm; and the second from 3pm to 8pm, so you either enjoy a yummy lunch, or dinner.

We were picked up from our hotel and brought to this humongous compound next to the red river (its name's derived from the brick colour of the waters). The owner of Awesome Travel lives here with his family.

The pet python in the garden, snoozing all through the ruckus we made in the kitchen, as it'd apparently just eaten a full meal of 4 quails.

The open dining hall in the courtyard, with a picturesque view of the Red River, where we sat down to learn to speak rudimentary Vietnamese, in order to haggle effectively at the market. Because Hanoi was ruled by the Chinese for over a millenium, Vietnamese also has 6 intonations, as it is with the Cantonese language.

After picking up a few choice Vietnamese phrases, we cycled to the market, a short 5 minutes' away. I haven't cycled in more than a decade, so I'm ridiculously rusty; I cycled a quarter of the journey, then chickened out after a couple of close encounters with many a motorcycle/van, and jogged (while holding onto my bike) the rest of the way.

I was surprised to find the smallish market still doing a roaring trade in the middle of the afternoon. Most convenient for busy worker bees who are jammed up in the day and can only shop for groceries after work.

The market is right on the road, so motorcyclists ride right up to the shop fronts to pick up their produce. No need for parking!

Our bargaining was supervised by our guide, a most jovial chap nicknamed 'Frog', so we greenhorn tourists wouldn't be taken advantaged of. Here, we were picking up fresh fruits for dessert.

Vegetables and herbs are the cornerstone of Vietnamese cuisine, and we bought heaps of greens for dinner.

The meats were very fresh, all colouring a vivid hue which the butchers will slice the way you like it. And, for a small fee, they'll even marinade the meats for you!

The butcher de-boning a chicken thigh at our request.

Picking up dried goods and spring roll wrappers.

It took us under an hour, even with our shitty communication skills, to pick up all of our ingredients for dinner. The rest of the class (it was just 1 other guy, an unusually affable Frenchman) then cycled back to the compound (while I ran alongside my bike).

The large airy industrial-looking kitchen, where we got a couple of extra hands to help with the prep work, so 6 whole main dishes got done in a little over an hour.

Never before have I wished harder for a food processor. It seemed that we were slicing and dicing and mincing and chopping forever!

Hanoi-Styled Spring Rolls (Nem)

Ingredients (3-4 servings):
200 grams minced pork belly (lean pork is ok too if on a diet)
100 grams shrimp, deshelled and chopped roughly
50 grams carrot, minced
30 grams beansprouts, chopped roughly
30 grams shallot, minced
1/2 yellow onion, minced
3 sprigs spring onions, minced
30 grams glass vermicelli, about 1 roll, rehydrated in tepid water and chopped roughly
4 dried Chinese black mushroom, rehydrated in hot water, diced roughly
10 grams wood's ear mushroom, rehydrated in hot water, minced
3 egg yolks
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp chicken powder
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
Rice paper wrappers

1) Mix the minced pork, shrimp, carrot, beansprouts, shallot, onion, spring onions, glass noodles, mushrooms, with the seasoning.

2) Roll about 2 tbsp heapfuls of fillings per roll, sealing them with a beaten egg.

3) Deep fry the spring rolls under medium-high heat golden and crispy.

4) Drain on paper towels.

Fresh Spring Rolls with Stir Fried Beef (Pho Cuon)

200 gram of beef tenderloin, sliced
1 small lettuce, sliced roughly
15 grams mint leaves
1 cucumber, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
100 grams toasted peanut, chopped
10 ml fish sauce
10 ml oyster sauce
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
500 gram of fresh noodle sheets

1) Marinate beef with fish sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, pepper, sesame oil for 30 minutes. Stir fry beef until medium rare. Set aside and reserve.

2) With 1 sheet of fresh rice paper, place herbs, peanut, lettuce, carrots, cucumber and beef, before rolling it up.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Lemongrass

Ingredients (4 servings):
1 boneless chicken thigh, sliced to bite-sized
1 yellow onion
2 stalks leek, minced
2 capsicum (1 green and 1 red), sliced to 2" lengths
1 small carrot, julienned
2 stalks lemongrass, chopped roughly
10 ml of fish sauce
10 ml of oyster sauce
1 tsp chicken powder
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp pepper

1) Marinate the chicken with fish sauce, oyster sauce, pepper, chicken powder, sesame oil for at least 30 minutes.

2) Saute shallots until fragrant. Add chicken in and stir quickly for about half a minute. Add the peppers and stir fry on high heat until chicken cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Grilled Pork (Bun Cha)

Ingredient (4 servings):
200 grams mince pork belly
100 grams pork shoulder, sliced
30 grams sugar
Fish sauce
1 small head lettuce, sliced into thick strips
Lemon mint
Purple mint
100 grams shallot, minced
500 grams fresh rice vermicelli
3 tbsp caramel

Dipping sauce (to mix altogether):
Water: 5 cups
Fish sauce:1 cup
Lime juice (or vinegar): 1 cup
Sugar: 1 cup
Chopped garlic: 1 tbsp heapful
Chopped chili: 1 flat tbsp (without seed)

1) Marinate minced pork with half the caramel sauce, and half of the shallots.

2) Make pork patties. 

3) Pan fry or grill it until well-done.

4) Marinade the pork shoulder with the remainder of the shallots and caramel sauce.

5) After the pork patties are done, pan-fry the pork shoulder in the same pan.

6) Make dipping sauce, garnished with cut carrots.The pork shoulder and patties are dunked into this, and eaten with noodles and herbs.

7) Serve with rice vermicelli.

8) And lots of fresh herbs. 

Awesome Travel Home Cooking Class

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