I walked over to the meetup spot by 7:45am (!) to gather at the office along with three British women who were also taking the Market Tour portion of the class.
After introducing ourselves, we took a quick boat ride to the Hoi An market, then walked around for about an hour trying a large selection of fruits, steamed rice items wrapped in banana leaf, herbs, and bought ground Vietnamese coffee and a metal brewing filter. This was by far my favorite part of the class. I really enjoyed getting to sample all the fruits and seeing the busy market with people parking their motorbikes everywhere and running to their favorite stalls to grab food items for the day.
After the market tour, the four of us waited on the boat while Thom (our instructor and guide) went back to the office to collect a couple that was joining us. A forty minute boat ride later and we arrived on the island where we did the cooking. Interestingly, our vessel was stopped on the way by a police boat to check the pilot’s paperwork and accept a bribe. Apparently this is standard practice, even if your paper work checks out. Presumably you pay a lot more if it doesn’t!
The class started out with all of us sitting at a table and discussing some history of the island, and her grandmother who is in her 90s, over some fresh juice. Then we learned how to make rice pancakes from scratch, from hulling rice on one wooden machine to crushing it to make rice milk on another. We each got our turn making a pancake (over the fire on a cloth-covered griddle) that we used for one of our dishes later. I definitely won’t be trying that at home but I’m glad I got the opportunity to see what’s involved!
For each of the dishes we prepared, a basket of raw ingredients and tools showed up. We got a quick explanation about what everything was and then we each peeled, chopped and prepared four dishes for ourselves. After each course, we took some time and ate the food — which was nice because I was starving by then!
My favorites were the papaya salad (so yummy!) and the pork spring rolls. Here are the four dishes we made:
- Banh Xeo (small rice flour crepes) a specialty of Hoi An – with shrimp and folded into rice paper
- Grilled, marinated pork brochettes with a special sauce – made into a fresh spring roll
- Green papaya salad – with marinated chicken and river shrimps
- Hot pot tuna (Fish prepared according to a local recipe) – served with steamed rice
The overall experience of the market tour, meeting grandma, and preparing all of the dishes from scratch was wonderful. I would highly recommend this class on a visit to Hoi An.