Today was still a bit of a rainy affair but we awoke feeling good and ready for the challenge that lay ahead of us today. We were to be going to the restaurant we visited last night to meet up with the chef who created the little culinary extravaganza we had eaten, we would then be going to the market with him to buy ingredients, before cooking some Vietnamese dishes and then gorging ourselves on the end results. An all round great way to spend the best part of a day.
The chef was a guy called Phab who was a bit like most chefs in that he was quite a showman but also very passionate about food and in his case, most particularly about Vietnamese food. We started off in his restaurant where he explained a bit about what we would be cooking during the course of the day and then he took us the short distance round a couple corners to the marketplace. As he chatted we soon realised that, even better, it turned out that we were the only two people to be taking the class today so we were to be having a very personalised experience.
If you are from the West like us, a Vietnamese market is definitely something to behold (not fear), it is quite a wild old place with stalls that are mainly run by wild older women but for all that it is simply beautiful. The place assaulted every one of our senses in both good and bad ways but overall the effect was amazing as it was quite simply an array of colours, sights and smells. Phab knew many of the ladies there and it was at one or two main stalls that he did most of his shopping. I noticed far fewer bills being handed over by him than would have been if we had been buying the foods he required but who cares.
Ingredients all bagged up, we journeyed back through some alleyways to the restaurant once again and got changed into our ‘whites’ in order to begin the task of prepping the various items bought. The dishes we were to be making were – the duck spring rolls (we had eaten as a starter last night), pork patties, fish cooked in banana leaf, special sauce, and stuffed squid. After months of being away from it, it was quite nice to pick up a knife once again and simply chop up some veg for ourselves. To be fair the recipes had quite simple ingredients but they had been well thought out so that both Liz and I had a chance to do everything. One of the more involved techniques was the fine chopping of some of the ingredients using two choppers, one in each hand, this looked really cool and gave a cooking bit of kung fu flair – although we were not the quickest it was quite interesting to have a go at and we still had all our fingers when we finished.
A couple of hours later and we were at the cooking stage and this literally made our mouths water, however, as a lot of the cooking techniques were quick cook we were very soon onto the tasting part of the class. We ate and ate and ate and it just seemed to go on and on. It was all very delicious but we did not need the spring rolls – which I had asked for as a speciality – as there was so much other food the go. It had all in all been a very interesting and enlightening experience but after saying our goodbyes to Phab, all we then wanted to go was get back to the hotel and sleep – we were just so very full of food.
However, we were to be leaving the hotel today though so had already vacated our room, this meant that we would have to save our sleep until we got on tonight’s sleeper bus that would take us down the coast to Nha Trang. Instead we had to go back out and visit yet another Hoi An treasure, which was very nice but a nice comfy seat and a couple of hours kip would have been much more appreciated at the time.
Soon enough though we were collected from our hotel and transferred onto the sleeper bus which did not go so great as previous trips as early on the bus kept stopping – without reason – usually as I was starting to bob off to sleep. The loos on the bus were very smelly which meant that every now and then you would get a nasty niff coming your way and I am sure this must have been a bus more often used by Asians as I did not seem to have as much room as I had done on earlier buses – argh will I survive. (Well yes of course I did as I would not be here typing this much later in the year!)