A few weeks ago I booked flights to Vietnam, which will become the 17th country I have visited and I’ll be well on my way to meeting my 30 countries before 30 target. I am so excited! My first time in Asia, my first real backpacking journey and so many things to experience!
One of the things I am looking forward to the most is the food. Every single thing I read, every person I talk to that has been to Vietnam enthuses about the food. I can’t wait to eat pho every morning, banh mi from the street corners for lunch and whatever else I can find for dinner.
As part of my trip I want to participate in at least one traditional Vietnamese cooking course. Apparently Hoi An is a really good place to do this so I need to scope out a good half day course. Some minor preparation came this evening in Hanoi-esque humid Bristol (ha! Well it was raining and there was crazy traffic!) where I attended Little Kitchen‘s Vietnamese Street food cookery class.
Little Kitchen is an adorable, independent cookery school run by Claire and Madeleine who were great hosts. Our class had 10 students and I really enjoyed the atmosphere and conversation that flows in a small group.
The entrée was Vietnamese Summer Rolls which were not as fiddly as I expected! Lots of finely sliced raw vegetables, coriander, mint and bean thread noodles were prepared. Next, the fun and tricky bit: rice paper. Rice paper is dry and hard before you use it; you have to soak it in tepid water until it becomes very soft and translucent. And therefore easy to break! I am pleased to say I managed make all three rolls without ripping the delicate paper!
To go with the rolls we prepared Nuoc Cham which was a fresh, flavourful dipping sauce. Lots of traditional Asian flavours went into the sauce; lemongrass, garlic, chilli, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, lime juice. It was so refreshing and really brought the healthy, clean summer rolls alive.
The main course was the Vietnamese classic sandwich: banh mi. I’ve eaten many banh mi’s in my lifetime, but I have never made one. We prepared the marinade for our pork shoulder which was a rich soy, ginger and garlic based sauce. We also made some very speedy pickled vegetables. Sliced very thinly the carrot and shallot transformed in the hour and a half that they were pickling for and were absolutely delicious.
We assembled the banh mi using traditional French baguette, which worked as a good substitute for the traditional rice-flour based roll that is normally used. After briefly frying the pork over a high heat, we layered it in the roll with a light layer of mayonnaise, the pickled vegetables, cucumber, coriander and mint. I had all intentions of wrapping it and taking it home with me to show my housemates, but there was no way I could resist eating it there and then! I was not disappointed! The rich, salty pork complimented the fresh pickled vegetables so well. I could have eaten two of them!
I had a great evening supporting a local business; I’ve come away with two new, straightforward dishes I can serve to friends and have found a new place where I can enjoy some downtime. I’m already eyeing up the rest of Little Kitchen’s classes to decide what to do next! What do you think I should try next?