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Vietnam is a food lover’s dream with affordable and delicious dishes available from all manner of street food vendors and restaurants. We’d eaten so well already during our visit to Vietnam but sometimes it is nice to do something a little different, so we decided to attend a cooking class. We did a lot of research about which was the best and found one with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class – which had many positive reviews online, plus also offered a market tour and a bamboo boat-ride.
What also helped make our mind up was that we were visiting Hoi An during rainy season (which wasn’t the best time of year to visit Vietnam), and the weather during our week long stay was appalling – so a cooking class was a great indoor activity. Check out our top things to do in Hoi An on a rainy day blog post>
A visit to a local market – Hoi An cooking class
The first stop was to visit a local fresh market on the outskirts of town (not the Central Market you can easily visit by yourself when walking around Old Town Hoi An).
On the day we visited the rain has truly set in, but this brought the market to life as various poncho wearing moped drivers skidded through the stalls, and ad-hoc tarpaulins were draped over the market stalls, making it feel more of an adventure. We learned about different Asian vegetables, meat, fish and food products before hopping back into the minibus for a short ride out to the countryside.
Bamboo boat ride – cooking class in Hoi An
As we arrived at the cookery school we were treated to our very own bamboo boat trip around the local waterways in Cam Thanh fishing village (there were generally two people per boat, each with their own ‘oars person’).
This was a fun excursion as we got to fish for purple crabs (we were both unsuccessful), see ducks up close, plus we were given a great photo opportunity to capture one of the local fisherman casting his nets. The traditional Vietnamese hats we were given to wear also proved to be not only a funny photo opportunity, but also a natty rain deterrant.
Time to cook!
Back on dry land, we were put into smaller groups (there were about 20 people in total at the cookery school). On our table, we were working with a couple from Switzerland plus another couple from Oregon in the States, as well a Korean family – a good and fun mix of people.
In order to accommodate larger group sizes, the various dishes you prepare and cook were done in rotation, so whilst say one group made their spring rolls, another group would be making their sauce. This system works really well, so you are practically cooking or prepping the entire time.
Cooking can also be a thirsty job so if you wanted to imbibe during the lessons, you could also grab a complimentary bottle of mineral water or buy soft drinks or beers (we opted to save our beer calories for later that evening, as our trip coincided with New Year’s Eve).
Over the course of the morning, we learned various cooking procedures and recipes including how to make our own rice paper rolls (the success is all in how you initial ladle out your mixture!), preparing a delicious banana flower salad with shrimp, plus how best to prepare and chop the various garnishes.
The highlight for us was preparing and frying our own banh xeo pancakes (make sure you use enough oil in the hot pan) – plus the fire-raising experience of preparing a tomato based sauce for our roasted aubergine dish.
Our tutor advised us not too lean in too close when the flames light up and we’re glad to say we still have all our eyebrows in tact. The staff help you throughout the fiery fun, and it is fascinating to watch your fellow cookery school cohorts attempt the same (it is also nice that the tutor offers to take pictures / video during it). It was definitely one of the highlights of our two weeks in Vietnam!
Once you complete each dish, you put your finished food under your own numbered food box, so that you can ensure you get to eat what you’ve cooked. Plus more importantly to make sure there are no issues for allergy sufferers on the course (for instance, someone on our day was allergic to peanuts and others were vegetarian, so it was made clear how important it was not to mix-up your food and chopping boards).
The whole kitchen process worked well and ran like clockwork so that everytime you returned to the kitchen, your work bench had been miraculously cleaned and your next set of ingredients beautifully laid out (nice work, Kitchen Fairies).
As you’d expect, the best bit of the day is when you get to taste your own food – there is nothing more satisfying than eating fresh food that you’ve just made yourself. From what I could see, everyone has been successful in completing all their dishes and we were all devouring our Vietnamese delights.
As we rubbed our stomachs contently and lapsed into a semi food coma, we were treated to a quick demonstration on how the pretty vegetable flowers and spirals you see so often in restaurants are made.
Upon departure back to our hotel, we were given a farewell gift (we won’t spoil the surprise but it is very fitting and we’ll definitely find room in our overflowing backpack to take it back to the UK) – plus a recipe card so that we can recreate the same dishes at home. We had such a good time and would highly recommend making time for a cooking class in your Vietnam itinerary.
As we are on the road for the next few months, we won’t be able to recreate any of these dishes anytime soon, but we will definitely putting our new found skills to the test one day (‘pho real!).
Here is a rundown of the dishes we cooked:
- Fresh spring rolls with tofu
- Chargrilled aubergine with soya sauce
- Phở Bò (beef noodle soup)
- Banana flower salad with prawns
- Crispy pancake ( Bánh Xèo)
- Sweet and sour fish sauce
How to book this Cooking Class in Hoi An
You can book by visiting Hoi An Eco Cooking Class online. The experience lasts about 5 and a half hours including the hotel pickup and drop off. They run 2 classes a day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon (note: only the morning class will include a visit to the local market).
Be aware of many imitation cooking classes – hotels and travel agents will send you to a similarly named ‘Eco’ cooking class in order to get commission (we had this problem/mix up with a food tour in Hanoi and ended up on one which was just so bad). It is best to email the manager Kien directly using [email protected] or by using the booking form on their website to secure your place onto this tour.
Other Vietnam blog posts
- The ultimate guide to Hoi An
- Highlights of Hanoi, Vietnam (plus a few lowlights)
- Visiting Vietnam’s Lady Buddha in Da Nang
- Be aware in Marble Mountains – how I was robbed in Da Nang, Vietnam
- Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Hoi An, Vietnam
Download the Grab app
Grab taxis are widely used by both tourists and locals, and the fares are really cheap! Download the Grab app here and use the code GRABCKTRAVELS to earn a free ride when you sign up.
Hoi An Accommodation
Here are some accommodation recommendations if you are planning a trip to Hoi An!
These backpacker hostels are highly rated online and in super locations:
Looking for mid range?
Here are some super nice places if you really want to treat yourself on your Hoi An trip!
Heading to Thailand or Cambodia?
Disclosure: The cooking class in Hoi An was complimentary but as always, opinions are all my own.
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