Apron Up, it’s Cooking time in Hanoi
Sitting down with Georgia, our son's lovely girlfriend, last September, she shared their top places in Vietnam to visit. The Apron Up Cooking Class in Hanoi was on the list. Not the cheapest but with her recommendation and TripAdvisor's no.1 cookery school in Hanoi, our decision was made.
We arrived to meet four buddies who live south of Sydney. They were great fun bantering together. Another Aussie guy, Gareth, who they met in their hostel, came flustering in. He'd only decided to join the class ten minutes beforehand.
Our tutor, Vicky, introduced herself and we followed her out of the building, joined by the 8th member of our group, a young lady from near Mumbai. Vicky was taking us to buy ingredients for our meal at the local markets stalls. We love wandering around markets in different countries, especially when we have a local to explain the weird and wonderful delights such as sandworms and duck eggs with embryos, that if left, may still hatch! I am glad to say that she didn’t buy these.
First on the list was banana blossom. We remember eating these chopped up in Sri Lanka; they make a great salad. Lychees were bought for a snack and then onto an overflowing stall with such a wide assortment of fruit and vegetables. Vicky showed us a few products that we didn’t know what they were, including an orange gourd used to turn rice red.
A large bag of fermented noodles was bought; these need to be eaten on the same day, and with us eight, I don’t think that would be too difficult.
We passed the meat stall, with chunks sitting in the warm air; I’m glad I don’t eat the stuff. Tim found it very amusing that it was in front of a hairdresser. Let’s hope Sweeny Todd’s descendants don’t work there.
Finally, Vicky treated us to pineapple on a stick, very skilfully made. I might try that at home one day.
Back at the restaurant, we climbed the five flights of stairs to reach our kitchen. After washing hands and putting on an apron, Gareth needed help with his and got severely ribbed, we cut and char-grilled some vegetables for our Pho soup.
The Indian lady and I made the banana ice cream adding condensed milk and coconut cream while the rest were chopping meat, then vegetables were finely sliced for the banana blossom salad and our spring rolls.
It was great fun making the spring rolls from thin rice paper, first in tubes, then in triangles. These needed to be fried twice, once to cook the inside, and the second time to make them delightfully crispy.
Pork and Tofu balls were miraculously formed, flicking from one hand to another, and fried, and the last job was separating the egg yolk from the white, which we all managed to do, for our egg coffee. This was whisked for ten minutes together with condensed milk, sugar, salt and two drops of vodka!
During all this chopping, slicing and frying, there was lots of banter and laughter. Gareth wanted lots of praise, which he got buckets full from me. Such a funny guy. And of course, the best bit was eating our five courses. It was absolutely scrumptious.
After our meal, we received a recipe book and personalised certificate of completion stating “Cooking is not a job, it is a passion”. Well, for some people, anyway!
Talking of passion, later, back at our accommodation, our receptionist Thang came up to our room. On the previous day, we chatted to him for ages. He opened up and shared that he used to sing, he was passionate about it and taught students. However, after the death of his father, he stopped. I asked if he would sing to us, and he sang Mariah Carey’s Heroes. Wow, what a beautiful voice he had; such a talent and we told him that it was sad that he was keeping this from the world.
I think some of our words touched him, as when he came to see us today, he gave me a beautiful silk scarf. And, what’s more, it goes perfectly with my small collection of clothes. How very special. And even more special is that he sang this morning, releasing his voice out for others to hear.