A Vietnamese Cooking Class (With Handsome French Foodies)
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, involves training two very handsome French foodies and one almost-four-year-old in the fine arts of Vietnamese cooking. You may select a cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City to assist you in your efforts. As always, should any member of your team be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions. This message will self-destruct in five seconds.
It seemed like a relatively easy mission and so I accepted. There were two dishy Frenchmen involved, how difficult could this mission be?
I booked us all in for a tourist-level class at Vietnam Cookery Center, where Darling Man and I had taken a course way back in 2008. Miss M was accepted as an “assistant” because the minimum age to take a cooking class is usually 10.
Early on a Monday morning, the team assembled at the Vietnam Cookery Center headquarters on the fourth floor of a wonderfully dingy art deco building in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City. (The building is, unfortunately, scheduled for demolition in the near future).
The tourist cooking courses have a rolling menu and the Monday menu is:
* Beef salad with tamarind sauce
* Caramel fish in clay pot
* Steamed rice with ginger
* Sweet and sour soup with fish and vegetables
* Dessert: Mung bean pudding with coconut milk (prepared by the chef)
We got straight into a bit of onion-chopping. Most of the prep-work is done beforehand to make the class as easy and fuss-free as possible.
I assigned Miss M the task of separating the onion strips and putting them into the big bowl. Combining onions and an almost-four-year-old was a bit of a mistake. There were tears. Luckily there was also a bathroom with lots of paper towels.
After the onion incident, we adjourned to the cooking room to prepare tamarind sauce and braise the pre-cut beef strips for the first course. Then we assembled the dish.
A few minutes after 10am, we were tucking into our first creation.
Mission not yet accomplished but going quite swimmingly.
Next up was the claypot fish and the soup. We chopped, we measured, we stirred, we marinated, we cooked.
Miss M assisted valiantly. But after a while she lost interest.
Luckily we were prepared for such an eventuality.
The rest of us continued with our mission …
The Frenchmen pausing from time to time to strike suave poses.
And soon we were rewarded with an early lunch.
And dessert was so good I forgot to take a photo!
Vietnam Cookery Center’s “class for tourist” is a great way to spend a morning in Ho Chi Minh City. The four-hour cooking component provides a quick and simple overview of some staple ingredients used in Vietnamese cuisine, as well as the basic cooking techniques. It’s not too challenging, so it’s suitable for non-cooks and kids (although please discuss logistics with the school if your kids are under 10).
You leave the course with a certificate and a booklet containing the recipes of the dishes you cooked during the class.
And, as you can see, the classroom is eminently suitable for striking poses. Even if you’re not French. (The dinginess of the building does not make an appearance inside the cooking classrooms.)
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