So far the food in Vietnam has been amazing! Sorry Japan, Vietnamese may fast be becoming my favourite Asian cuisine. The dishes we have tried have been simple but literally bursting with the fresh and vibrant flavours of local, seasonal herbs and veggies.
We spent 5 days in Ho Chi Minh which was plenty of time for us to discover some gorgeous, yet inexpensive, 5 star restaurants which we would highly recommend. The avocado, chicken and Vietnamese mint fresh spring rolls at Propaganda Cafe were out of this world, while the crunchy morning glory salad and healthy smoothies at …hum vegetarian cafe not only fuelled us for the day but taught us the health benefits of the ingredients.
Bloom restaurant has all the rustic elegance of a French chateau and all the delicacy and perfect balance of flavours you would expect from a Michelin starred chef! We had the shredded chicken and banana flower salad with sautéed pak choi, served with handmade rice crackers and a refreshing raw sugar cane water for about £8 for two.
We wanted to learn the secrets of this amazing cooking! So that is what we did, with the help of Ho Chi Minh Cookery School. Set up and run by Chef Tan, this is a cookery school with a difference. Set 35km outside of Ho Chi Minh City the cookery courses are held in the middle of an organic farm, planted by Chef Tan 3 years ago on his return from Australia. They have their own fishery and pig farm as well as a vast herb garden, fruit trees, specialist mushrooms and not to mention every type of vegetable you can imagine. They even grow their own peanuts! It is so inspiring, it almost made us want to give up traveling to go home and plant a farm.
Needless to say we spent the first hour touring the farm and picking our own lemongrass, ginger, Papaya and herbs to use during the cooking, all under the careful supervision of our wonderful guide Tuyen. As we toured the farm Tuyen shared with us her local knowledge and even the medicinal properties of the herbs. I.e. Did you know chives are good for men’s fertility? And lemongrass leaves can cure an upset tummy? It was fascinating!
On to the cooking… We prepared (and ate) 4 delicious courses; fresh spring rolls with a peanut dipping sauce, stuffed tempura eggplant, crispy duck with stir fry veggies and mango spring rolls to finish. Everything we needed was all laid out for us on our benches in front of Chef Tan and it really was like an episode of Master Chef as we watched and copied his peeling, chopping, stirring, frying, slicing and sautéing.
It was such as smoothly organised day; as soon as we were finished cooking, the girls would swoop in to clear up and prepare the utensils and ingredients for the next course whilst we sat and gorged on what we had just prepared, marvelling at the fantastic chefs we had become! We learnt so much, everything from how to peel ginger with the least amount of waste to how to use and store fish sauce and oyster sauce like a pro.
We combined our cookery course with a trip to the Chu Chi tunnels which were absolutely fascinating and made even better by the fact we were accompanied by Tuyen as our guide. She was determined to take us down the smallest of tunnels and was able to explain the events in a really personal way. Overall I cannot recommend Ho Chi Minh Cookery School highly enough and if you are ever nearby, please just go!