Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hanoi Part 4 - Masterchef: The Jenni and Michael Version

In the morning we checked out of our hotel and rushed to our 9am cooking class. Yes, you heard me right: cooking class. For something a bit different, Michael and I decided to try out our cooking skillz which we haven't been able to do since leaving Oz, plus learn a few new dishes along the way.

There was originally a class of 6, however two people didn't show, so in the end it was just us and two very friendly ladies from Hong Kong; Diana and Alice. It turns out that Diana is actually a famous professional ballroom dancer, who was the reigning champion in Hong Kong for many years. 

Our instructor was Dan, a young Vietnamese student who was studying journalism and working at the restaurant part-time. He was really nice and explained all of the steps as we watched one of their chefs prepare the food, then tried it on our own. 

Before the actual cooking he first took us around the fresh food market, pointing out various ingredients and how they are used in Vietnamese cooking. Diana and Alice took the opportunity to stock up on fresh fruit and we went halves in a bag of lychees. One of the more interesting things on sale was betel nuts. They are these funny looking nuts/berries that the older people chew. It acts as a mild narcotic and is very addictive. However the unfortunate side effects include bright red lips and black teeth, making it not so popular with the younger generation.

Then we went back to the restaurant where we donned our aprons and chef's hats. We prepared four dishes:
Starter: Fresh Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce
Mains: Fried Chicken in Oyster Sauce and Steamed Fish with Tamarind Sauce
Dessert: Sweet Potato Pudding with Coconut Cream

The spring rolls were fiddly but pretty straightforward, I left out the coriander so mine were a bit on the skinny side. The chicken was probably the most challenging, because we had to de-bone it. It looked really easy when the chef showed us, but our knives just didn't seem as sharp (any excuse will do!) so it took us a lot longer. The fish was nice and easy as the tamarind sauce was already made, we just had to cut and marinate it with ginger, pepper and chicken stock. The sweet potato pudding was easy enough to prepare, however the decoration was very tricky. The chef dolloped some coconut cream into one of the bowls, then used two toothpicks to make a pretty lotus flower pattern. We tried to copy her exactly, but somehow we ended up with splodges that looked more like a rorschack picture than a lotus flower.

Once we were finished, our creations went off to the main kitchen to be finished off and plated. Then we went into the dining area of the restaurant and had everything served to us for lunch. For dessert, Diana and Alice kindly shared their market purchases, so we finished of with a delicious selection of lychees, mangostein and water chestnuts.

After lunch we went back to the hotel to get our luggage. Then we stopped off at our favourite Hanoi cafe for non-alcoholic cocktails and free wifi, before having dinner at our favourite Hanoi pub (Le Pub) and then boarding the overnight train to Sapa.

Stay tuned for Sapa!

1 comment:

  1. I'm looking forward to having you in the kitchen in Albany for a repeat cooking lesson. Sounds good.