Sunday, October 13, 2013

Vietnamese Cooking Class


I love to cook!  I love to cook for myself, my family, my friends, anyone really, but I absolutely love being in the kitchen. In fact, I usually tell people that I'm happiest when I'm in my kitchen.  Since moving to Vietnam, I haven't done a ton of cooking outside of spaghetti and sauteed chicken partly because it's super cheap to dine out and partly because I have no clue where to begin.  It's not nearly as simple as pinning a new recipe on Pinterest and then heading to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients.  Don't I wish!  Outside of two shops we've found in Tay Ho, it's difficult to find the basics here, let alone some obscure American products that no one has ever heard of.  When I do find something that looks familiar, it costs an arm and a leg because it's been imported.  Just yesterday, I found a package of Oscar Mayer ham for sale in a shop for $7.25!!  They must be kidding me!

Today I set out with some friends for a Vietnamese cooking class.  I was really quite keen to get started learning some new Vietnamese dishes.  Class began with our instructor Anthony teaching us how to make beef stock from scratch for our traditional Pho.  I learned that the secret to a good pho is the stock.  It must be cooked low and slow and extreme care must be taken to remove the "scum" from the top.  Pho broth should be light in color and not too strong.  
Chef Anthony grilling up spices to be added to the beef broth.



4 hours later...the broth is done and it's time to eat the Pho. 

Final product! 
Next, we traveled to the market via cyclo to buy the ingredients for our meal.  This is really a very cool way to see the city of Hanoi.  There is nothing like crossing intersections riding on a pedal powered bike with taxis and motorbike whizzing around you.  I've learned to just sit back and enjoy the ride. 
A brief moment when my life wasn't in danger...the street actually looks quite peaceful.  It's an optical illusion! 

Donut hole anyone?  Perhaps if they were covered up from the dust and dirt of Hanoi, I might consider treating myself. 

Anything and everything can be bought from the back of a bike.  Fresh veg anyone? 
 Soon we arrived at the market.  Everything is fresh...and I mean EVERYTHING!  Somethings are a little too fresh for my liking.  Lots of fruits and veggies to choose from.  Thank heavens for a wonderful product called Vegi Wash.  It was recommended to us by a doctor who can to school to "introduce" us to the hazards of Hanoi in August.  It simply removes the dirt and germs from produce, and trust me, there are plenty of both to be removed. 
Women sit around all day selling produce.  It's common for Vietnamese women to shop between 5-6 AM and then again between 3-4 PM when produce and meat has been newly delivered. 

Eggs!!  Chicken, duck, and quail. There are also Balut (developing duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell. It is commonly sold as streetfood)
Moving right along to the seafood section!  Looks just like the seafood counter at the Giant right?!  Snails, eels, prawns and a variety of shell fish are available here. 
Fresh veggies line the streets of the market. 
WARNING!!  The following pictures are a bit, how shall we say...vivid! 
Can I interest you in some fresh pork?!  Just walk right up and pick your cut.  You can touch every single piece to find the right one. 

Chicken/Duck
Just the basics...beef bones, water, onion and a symphony of spices.

Chef Anthony assured us that every part of the animal is used.  Yep, you got it...that's a pigs foot (or pigs trotter).
Step right up...who's next?  The merchant is chopping bacon for a customer. 
Chef Anthony offered us a chance to taste the balut.  I certainly didn't, but Rob and Daniel were brave souls. 
Ahhh, fresh rice noodles...much more my speed!  



 After gathering all of our ingredients, we walked back to the cooking school to begin.  By now, the beef broth was simmering away and almost ready.  The cooking started with a few knife lessons and lots of chopping.  First thing on the menu...deep fried spring rolls.  


Chop, chop, chop!

Check out those impressive knife skills

Taking a turn chopping the pork shoulder to make minced pork.

Time to fry them up.
 Now it's time to make the Bun Cha (my new favorite Vietnamese dish!)  Chop up more pork to make grilled pork patties and grill up some pork tenderlion over a charcoal flame.  Serve some fresh rice noodles, coriander, mint, spring onion and some amazing sauce and enjoy!  You can even dip your freshly friend spring roll in for some added flavor. 
Perrine taking a turn rolling the pork patties. 

Bun Cha...my new favorite! 

Chef Anthony whipping up a grilled chicken and veggie dish.  I wish I could have eaten more, but I was stuffed by this point. 

We even got certificates at the end! 
Cooking class was great fun!  It was so nice to spend the afternoon with friends, relaxing and doing what I love.  Now I can't make any promises that I'll be able to recreate these recipes when I come home for Christmas, but I'll certainly give it a try. 

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