Last Friday we had a free morning, so I decided to try one of the cooking schools I’d read about in Hoi An. I’m so glad I did!
The morning started with small groups of us touring the market with a local guide. I learned to identify products I hadn’t recognized and was amazed at how clean it all was. No flies and no smell, despite walking amidst fresh meat, fish and seafood. I was told the prices are higher and not negotiable in the mornings — they get lower and more flexible later in the day “once the market smells different.” They also showed us local cooking utensils.
A few things I didn’t know before: they tie the crabs’ legs together with rice leaves so they don’t crawl away; the green crunchy stuff we often enjoy here in coleslaw is green papaya; and they use a grinder to get the fish ready for fish balls or fish cakes.
Can you spot the pig head and tail?
We then took a boat for a 25-minute cruise along the river to get to the cooking school site. I chatted with an 18-year-old backpacker from New Zealand — we ended up being partners throughout the morning, as others were there in pairs.
The Red Bridge Cooking School compound was really lovely — a large eating area, herb garden, classroom and pool, right on the river.
After a tour of the herb garden, we were given written recipes and started the class. The chef demonstrated a skill, then we each had our own cooking station where we tried the new skill ourselves. Cooking sure is easy when someone else has planned it, prepared the ingredients, coaches you and cleans everything up!
We made two different kinds of spring rolls — one containing a rice and veg pancake and the other with chicken and veg, wrapped in rice paper we made ourselves. We made a seafood salad, a chicken soup, and a couple of dipping sauces. They even taught us how to do decorative garnishes — you’ll see from the photos that I was more skilled with one than the other!
We then headed over to the eating pavilion to enjoy the fruits of our labours!