Continuing from Chefs for a Day: Vietnamese Cooking Class Part I, we started the actual cooking lessons for four recipes. The cooking teacher first demonstrated each dish before we attempted to cook our own versions.
I wasn’t completely sure what to expect when it came to the actual cooking, because I’ve heard that often times everything is already prepared for you and you only have to put things together, like assembling a salad. It became clear pretty quickly that I needn’t have worried. There was going to be plenty of hands-on cooking. We each had our own stations with our own stove top, ingredients, and banana leaves prepared for each recipe.
Cabbage Leaf Parcels Shrimp Mousse in Broth
The first recipe was a soup, as is tradition in Asian cuisine to start your meal with a soup. The name of this dish may sound complex, but it was really just a broth with shrimp dumplings wrapped in cabbage leaf.
We had vegetable broth and shrimp mousse prepared already, but we did watch our cooking teacher make it from scratch. Honestly, I was glad I didn’t have to make those because I would have certainly messed it up… or forgotten an ingredient or five. We did wrap our own cabbage leaf parcels and boil the soup to our liking. Wrapping shrimp mousse in cabbage leaf was like wrapping a present, and I love wrapping presents.
I think everyone was surprised that our soups were delicious! Of course there were assistants helping us out, but it felt like we did some actual cooking instead of just assembling. By this point I had no idea how I was still eating…
BBQ Chicken & Lime Leaves
While we did have our own stoves, we did not have our own grills (which would have been really, really dangerous considering anyone can sign up for this cooking class). So the main “cooking” part for this dish was creating the marinade. Unlike the simple flavouring of Western barbecues, Asian-style meats are always cut into small or thin pieces and then marinaded for maximum flavour.
Each student’s skewered chicken were taken away to be grilled by professionals (good call) and we would get them back later, combined with the next dish…
Mango Salad with Prawns
I was really just expecting to do some assembly for this salad, but again I was pleasantly surprised! We learned how to finely slice our own green mangos, which was not easy. Using a peeler/paring knife with two blades slightly shifted such that one is higher than the other, we first peeled the mango before cutting lines along the mango and ultimately slicing off a pile. None of my mango slices were equal in size.
With some garnishments and a fragrant dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, chili and garlic, you couldn’t notice my uneven mango slices anymore. This salad was meant for a side dish for our BBQ chicken.
Crispy Hoi An Pancakes with Pork, Prawns & Bean Sprouts
The final recipe was probably the most ambitious, especially when it came to the actual execution. Banh xeo is a classic street food in Hoi An – I’ve seen many street vendors create one in a matter of seconds, making it look so easy. It was not so easy when we tried to make our own. Most people’s first attempt at frying the pancake resulted in heavy stickage, including Carlos’. Luckily I put enough oil initially and my first one made it through alive. The cooking assistant had to help me a bit as I get scared of oil spitting in hot pans.
The next step was to wrap the pancake. A handful of herbs, a star fruit and green banana slice provided balance to the otherwise oily pancake. Garnish on top and sauce on the side – voila!
Any day where we ate as much as this day is a win in my book. Bonus that we also toured the market, saw cooking demonstration, and learned how to cook some stuff ourselves. We were both pretty amazed that we were both able to cook some fairly complex dishes without any previous knowledge. Plus everything tasted great, which was a miracle. This Vietnamese cooking class did a great job teaching us cooking skills that were challenging, but not overly difficult. Glad we chose Morning Glory Cooking School and another item checked off the list!
For more pictures from the Vietnamese cooking class, please visit the gallery!