One suggestion of Ms Quyen was to visit Ms Vy’s cooking class and see local Hoi An food specialties made first-hand in an open kitchen. Ms Vy also heads the restaurant Morning Glory which has become the “not-to-be-missed” dining experience in Hoi An.
The restaurant and cooking school takes its name from the morning glory vegetable which, after rice, is the most commonly eaten food in Vietnam. One of the more appealing aspects of this edible plant is its resilience. It can grow in almost any kind of climate from soil, mud or waterways. Its durability and flexible nature makes it a symbol of the Vietnamese character. It can survive —even thrive— in the harshest of conditions, growing into a beautiful green vegetable with a white star flower.
Also the Morning Glory cooking class comes with an all you can eat breakfast before the cooking class starts and at least by that argument they had us convinced 🙂
We entered the open kitchen restaurant and let the smells excite our taste buds:
Some dishes even look familiar to our western dishes, but they still have their own Vietnamese characteristic. Typical breakfast dishes: waffles with cinnamon-sugar, frozen yogurt with roasted peanuts, chicken pho with garnishes of bean sprouts and fresh herbs, coconut sticky rice with sesame & roasted peanuts and pork sausage sticky rice with spicy onion dressing. And for egg lovers, eggs cooked on a portable hotplate with homemade tomato sauce:
After breakfast we headed off towards the colorful central market. To be more easily identifiable as belonging to the Morning Glory cooking class group we got to wear the typical Asian conical hat, sometimes also called rice hat, paddy hat, bamboo hat or coolie hat.
It is kept on the head by a cloth (often silk) chin strap and used as protection from the sun and rain. When made of straw or matting, it can be dipped in water and worn as an impromptu evaporation-cooling device.
A short boat trip on the river got us to the market where we started the tour with our guide. The first stop was the fresh fish department:
Living crabs tied up artistically with seaweed:
Any type of sea food, you name it, I am sure we saw it 🙂
Women cleaning and prepping the catch of their husbands who had been out fishing most of the night:
Herbs, spices and vegetables in the next department:
We just love how they arrange and pile their goods:
Dried noodles, or how our guide put it: “Instant noodles for the lazy wife”.
Our guide demonstrating a special peeler used for decorating:
Yupp, not only us tourists wear paddy hats:
The butcher department:
Also woman domain:
Some more impressions from the market:
Heading back from the market to the cooking facilities:
Back at the Morning Glory we got a tour of the kitchens, explaining in all details how the ingredients are prepared. Here for instance rice is ground to fine rice flower which is used for noodles and dough:
The rice flower can be used together with water to make rice noodles. Sometimes other ingredients such as tapioca or corn starch are also added to change the texture of the noodles and make them more chewy.
Despite any machines, there is always a lot of hand labor involved:
That’s right. Here’s were they make the spicy stuff:
You get to try it on the spot. Veeery delicious with the fresh baked bread/crackers!
Everybody is busy here. This lady is making little chicken dumplings. This is a countryside specialty consisting of thin rice dough stuffed with chicken pieces and shredded banana flower, herbs and peanuts:
And more specialties. You get to try anything you wish or dare to:
A sweet desert consisting of sticky rice, sweet coconut and sesame:
Delicious crab dumplings:
And any kind of noodles you can imagine:
Even the cooking facilities are specialized. Check out the different kinds of pots and fire places:
Cleaned and roasted sesame. The smell is amazing:
Everybody pitches in and is responsible for different dishes:
After removing the feathers the duck get’s treated in hot oil to seal the skin and conserve the meat until it get’s processed:
Here we finally arrive at the special delicacies:
You did not recognize it yet? Silk worm salad (Goi Nhong):
Oh, yes! We tried it 🙂
After this amazing try-as-you-like kitchen-tour we finally started the actual cooking class. We were fortunate enough to be taught by Ms Vy herself, who is a very charismatic personality. The whole class was held in her spell and it is no wonder her classes top the list on any forum you can find. She’s a magician with food, and so passionate about it that she wants to know every last detail about an item, from how it was grown to whether you can get it back home. She’s old enough to have learned from the shortages during the war and knows the health benefits of each and every ingredient she uses.
After Ms Vy’s story and explanations we got to follow her instructions step by step and as it is said so nicely “learning by doing”:
From Ms Vy we learned that a light soup is an important part of the traditional Vietnamese meal, no matter how simple or humble. In the homes of the Vietnamese, ‘canh’, a flavorsome and light broth accompanies rice dishes. It is usually plain so as to aid digestion, as simple as the boiling water of the morning glory vegetable, flavored with tamarind, ground shrimp & sugar. We started our meal with one of these light broths as they aid digestion!
Now doesn’t that look delicious?
In our recipe it states: A simple, clean cabbage broth, with attractive little cabbage bundles of chopped, ground shrimp tied up with blanched spring onions.
But there is more to come. Here some spices and other ingredients we used during the preparation of the following dishes:
A vegetarian spring roll I don’t even remember making. I can remember it’s taste though! Yummm!
Preparing the green mango salad with fresh herbs topped with banana sprouts and sesame:
And a marinated and bbqed chicken skewer:
And finally the desert. The Vietnamese do not have the same dessert tradition as westerners. They enjoy finishing their meal with moist, refreshing fruits, while Westerners like sweet desserts. Vietnamese do enjoy the sweet taste but for their snacks, so here we got to try some of the Vietnamese snack foods as our dessert (dried and suggared coconut and mango slices):
What is there to add?
It was a great experience and mountains of food of every imaginable taste to try. Our only recommendation if you visit Hoi An is, to visit this cooking class hungry!