Become a Vietnamese Master Chef
Visitors to Vietnam are always entranced by the quality, flavors, and freshness of the local cuisine. Realizing this, Lanterns Restaurant has run cooking classes for many years to pass on some of their knowledge and culinary secrets.
When we return home from a holiday, we have our pictures and sometimes our diaries to remind us of our time away. Unfortunately, we usually lose the clarity and intensity of those memories over time. A cooking class in a foreign country is a way to engage all your senses, embedding memories of both time and place much more effectively than just reading a recipe book.
You see the food as it transforms from raw ingredients to a plated feast. Your sense of touch is stimulated by the feel of the ingredients as you undertake the preparation process. You hear the experts as they instruct on the correct pronunciation of the food you are preparing. You smell the aromas as the ingredients combine and cook, and best of all, your taste buds are fully engaged as you sample the results of all your hard work. Cooking from a recipe book is quite different to hands-on learning the techniques and understanding of why to prepare the food in a particular way.
So what better place to start the day than at the market and see where the ingredients come from? The day begins with the group meeting Lanterns at 9am, before hopping in that most Vietnamese of transport, the cyclo, traveling to the nearby Xom Moi market. It is not as chaotic as the larger Dam Market, making it easy group discussion and instruction. Ms. Khanh is an expert at sourcing the fresh ingredients, and she readily offers an explanation of the various herbs and local vegetables. It can be a real eye-opener to the mind-boggling diversity of what’s on offer.
With ingredients in hand, guests are whisked off to Lanterns sister-eatery, BBQ Un In which has more space to accommodate the cooking classes. The backdrop of the Cai River with its rustic fishermen’s shacks and colorful boats gives guests more of a feel for the local way of life, and the bright, airy space is fully equipped with everything required to prepare the feast that awaits.
Each budding chef is presented with an apron to wear and take home as a souvenir, and Miss Khanh takes over, giving her unique running commentary about the preparation of the dishes. The starter of rice paper rolls is a classic, found on the menu of restaurants across the country. It uses readily available ingredients, and while not particularly complicated to make, there are a couple of chef secrets to prepare it correctly.
Khanh suggests washing’ the shrimp in banana rum to bring out the flavor, while her skilled hands artistically decorate the serving plate using colorful vegetables and other ingredients. ‘Eating with the eyes’ is of great importance, and here it is demonstrated with flair and good natured humor.
A traditional clay pot is the main course, with a choice of tofu, shrimp, chicken, pork or fish depending on personal choice. The perfect clay pot dish needs to be cooked slowly on the small paraffin stoves commonly used in households across Vietnam. Naturally, each guest gets to dine on the creations, and much of the attraction of the class is the communal element of cooking and dining together with new ingredients and new friends.
Lastly, for dessert. Local fresh fruit is flambéed using banana rum as the flaming liquor. The secret to a great sauce is shown, and the results are superb! Add ice cream, and a truly great dessert, made from scratch, is ready to devour.
Another pleasing aspect of the course is that the whole morning is unrushed. There is plenty of time to ask questions, enjoy the food and chat with the other participants. The overall experience is a relaxing lunch with new friends. Once the lesson is complete, each student is presented with a gift pack which includes a small recipe book and a coconut stirring spoon. This makes it so easy to prepare authentic and delicious Vietnamese dishes on returning home.
With guests from across the globe, Lanterns Cooking Class is an excellent way to demonstrate both Vietnamese cuisine and culture, and it is all done in a safe, clean, comfortable environment under the watchful eye of a friendly, well-trained team. If you do not have a full morning free to try the cooking classes, a visit to Lanterns Restaurant will give you the best in Vietnamese cuisine, while BBQ Un In is a specialist in smoked pork ribs. They are two of the busiest restaurants in the city, so book in advance to secure a table.
Lanterns Restaurant – 34/6 Nguyễn Thiện Thuật – PH: 058 2471 674
BBQ Un In – 206 Xom Com Street, Nha Trang – PH: 058 6548 485