I’ve now been in Vietnam for a whole month. I don’t understand time and how it seems to be flying by at warp speeds, but wow. Now that I’ve been here a month, I’ve hit that mark in expat life where I know my neighborhood, know where to find the most affordable groceries, I have my go-to nail salon, a gym membership, a pool membership, the works. But I’ve been a bit bored and restless lately. I know, I know, how could I possibly be bored when theres’s SO much more of Saigon for me to explore, but this whole job hunt thing has me sort of pre-occupied and a little uninspired. Frankly, I’ve been feeling a bit down. Even though I LOVE living here, I miss my friends. To be honest, I’ve been a bit lonely lately. It’s not as easy to make friends here as it is in Korea. Thankfully, I have Johnny, but I still miss my girls. But I can’t sit around in a funk, so I decided to do something about it and sign up for a cooking class at the Saigon Cooking Class by Hoa Tuc.
I found this particular class using the ol’ Google, and after I saw so many great reviews, coupled by the fact that the menu sounded absolutely divine, I knew I was in for a great time. It was just the thing I needed to get me out of my comfort zone and make me feel a little better.
I was extremely lucky in that the class I took only had 3 participants, so it was really intimate and I felt much more at ease. The maximum capacity is 14 people, and apparently the morning classes are the ones that are typically full. I opted for an afternoon class as I like my beauty sleep. The class was 3 hours long, and we made 3 dishes. With each dish, the chef explained to us all the ingredients, where they came from, how they are harvested, or little anecdotes about the food. He was super personable, answered all of our questions, and made us laugh. He made the class even more enjoyable than it already was. Some of the ingredients were pre-chopped and pre-portioned, which allowed the chef more time to really explain techniques and ingredients to us.
First on the menu – mustard leaf rolls with crunchy vegetables and prawns with a kumquat sweet and sour dipping sauce. It was super simple to make, and the fresh, crunchy veggies mixed with the peppery mustard leaf and the dipping sauce were to die for. I’m not even the biggest seafood fan, but I really enjoyed the shrimp as well.
Next on the menu were sticky rice fritters stuffed with pork and and carrots and soy sauce. First off, sticky rice is a bitch to work with. It’s delicious as hell though! The fritters are deep fried until they are a golden brown and crunchy on the outside, but the insides are still warm and chewy. YUM!
And last, we made my favorite meal (yes, more than pho), fresh rice noodles with marinated BBQ pork and raw vegetables, or bun thit nuong, which literally means grilled meat on noodles. This is my favorite Vietnamese dish because it’s just so fresh and tasty. Plus, when it’s insanely hot, the last thing I want is pho. I want cold noodles with lots of crunchy veggies. It’s the main reason why I chose to do the class on this particular day because I wanted to learn how to make it on my own. And again, it’s incredibly easy. The pork is marinated in honey, lemongrass, garlic, shallots and black pepper, then grilled over charcoal. We just used a clay pot filled with charcoal to cook the meat, no fancy grill required. It was so easy! After slicing up all the veggies and herbs, you just stick the meat on top, drizzle your dressing on top, and BAM. Done!
After each dish, we got to sit down and taste them, and at the end, we were treated with a seasonal dessert, which was a passionfruit mousse. It was so incredible, I think I devoured it in about 3 bites.
Overall, the Saigon Cooking Class was a really wonderful experience, and just the thing I needed to make me feel a bit better. For only 39.50 USD, I’d say it was definitely an afternoon well spent. I learned so much, and after I left I felt like my creativity was starting to seep back. Food is always the answer!
For more information, you can visit the Saigon Cooking Class website here.