What gives papaya salad that zing? Where is the best cao lau in town? How do you order Vietnamese coffee like a local? If these are the kinds of burning questions you have (or you just love to eat), Hoi An is a mecca for cooking classes and food tours – and just like banh mi stalls, there are plenty to choose from.
There are dozens upon dozens of cooking classes available in Hoi An and which one you should choose simply depends on preference. Some are held in restaurants in town, with an abridged crash course that take as little as an hour, while others are drawn out into day-long affairs combined with a motorbiking, cycling or boating to fishing villages and herb gardens. Do you want a class in town or a rural setting? A restaurant or a home? Does it include a fresh market tour? Do you prefer demonstration style or really getting hands-on, doing all the prep yourself? Want to learn the popular dishes or something that requires a more adventurous palate and dexterous culinary skills? One thing is for sure: you won’t leave hungry.
Several of the strongest cooking classes are attached to popular restaurants. The Ms Vy empire of eateries has the cooking class down to an art and there are programs at Vy’s Market Restaurant & Cooking School and her longstanding Morning Glory Restaurant. While we like to highlight small enterprises, we also can’t deny that this establishment is a solid choice and an organised, well-oiled machine. In addition to your standard class (two hours, four dishes, 550,000 dong), we like that there are also advanced programmes for more serious students. The “Advanced Masterclass” will appeal to at-home-chefs who aren’t afraid to get hands-on and put their knife skills to good use. This half-day class (08:30-13:30) includes buying the ingredients at the market and a tour through some street food kitchens. The cost is 925,000 dong per person.
To kick it up a notch, Vy’s Market Restaurant has “Gourmet Class with Ms Lulu” – this is for chefs or skilled amateurs. This goes more into the nitty gritty of Vietnamese food, culture and nutrition before tackling a few interesting dishes not usually on the cooking class circuit such as fried wontons with crab meat and stuffed squid with pork. Cost is 990,000 dong per person.
Another well-rated restaurant-cooking school is Red Bridge, with classes taking place at their beautiful riverside villa or a quickie class at Hai Cafe in town. The classic half-day program is US$33, including market tour and boat ride to their location but the indulgent "Deluxe Day Tour" caught our eye since you get to hand pick herbs in Tra Que vegetable village and the four featured dishes sound mouthwatering: clay pot fish with fresh dill, lemongrass shrimp grilled in banana leaf, grilled chicken with banana flower salad and finally, discover what it takes to make that heavenly beef pho. It’s US$55, 08:00 to 15:00.
For a more homey experience, you can’t go wrong with Green Bamboo, a small class held in Ms Van’s own kitchen. She’s great and if you have kids she is exceptional. Green Bamboo differentiates itself by being held in a real family home (where you are instantly embraced as a treasured relative) and by having every participant choose one dish from an extensive menu of 68, then you learn to make your dish as a group. Variety is guaranteed. It’s US$40 per person from 08:00 to 15:30, including market tour.
Green Bamboo Cooking School & Cafe: 21 Truong Minh Hung St, Cam An Ward (near Cua Dai Beach): T: (0905) 815 600; email@example.com; www.greenbamboo-hoian.com.
Morning Glory Restaurant: 106 Nguyen Thai Hoc St, Hoi An; T: (0510) 224 1555; firstname.lastname@example.org; msvy-tastevietnam.com/cooking-classes.
Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School: Thon 4, Cam Thanh, Hoi An; T: (0510) 3933 222 ; email@example.com; www.visithoian.com/redbridge/.
Vy’s Market Restaurant & Cooking School: 3 Nguyen Hoang St, An Hoi Islet; T: (0510) 392 6926; firstname.lastname@example.org; msvy-tastevietnam.com.
By Cindy Fan
Last updated on 14th August, 2016.