“Today we’ll be making seafood spring rolls, banana flower salad, caramel pork and black sesame seed and peanut che, but first to the local market” said our bubbly guide, Chef Duyen from the Hanoi Cooking Centre.
A short walk and we were at a local shop front with everything from dog food to six varieties of rice, all sitting happily next to one another. Then onto the bustling market which also acted as a drive-thru supermarket with people on their scooters stopping to pick up supplies for dinner. It looks like chaos but in actual fact, the markets are a well-oiled machine. I loved watching people go about their normal daily routine buying meat or seafood for the family dinner.
We purchased pork belly for the caramel pork dish and silk worms to make a quick and easy beer snack.
You’ll notice in the foreground of the image above, some creamy looking nuggets that look a bit like beans. These are… wait for it… rooster testicles! Chef Duyen asked us if we’d be keen to try a dish made with these but we declined much to the amusement of the ladies behind the stall.
Our guide told us that her little boy was occasionally still wetting the bed and her mother told her she must feed him some testicles to fix the problem. She made the suggested testicle dish but when her son refused to eat it, she said she just couldn’t waste the protein and had to eat it herself. She said they are definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone.
Back at the cooking school, we were handed over to the young chef who would be looking after us for the rest of the morning.
First up, we fried the silk worms adding garlic, chilli and finely sliced kaffir lime leaf. A splash of soy sauce and we were ready to try but not before we were handed two cold beers. After all, this is a snack to have with beer! The worms have a surprisingly nutty flavour, a little chewy, certainly not unpleasant but I think it’s a taste you have to grow up with. A bit like vegemite I guess.
We then got straight onto the caramel pork so it would have plenty of time in the oven. You’ll need:
- 1 kg pork belly
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1/&1/4 cup of caramel sauce
- 1/2 cup fish sauce
- cracked black pepper
- vegetable oil for frying
Heat your oven to 160 degree celsius. Slice the pork into cubes and place in a shallow tray to marinate for 20 minutes with two tablespoons of fish sauce, the garlic, shallots and pepper. Place a clay pot or an oven-proof pot into the oven to preheat.
In a hot wok, heat a small amount of oil and sear the pork. Keep tossing the work so the pork is evenly coloured and doesn’t stick. Add the caramel sauce, fish sauce and a small amount of water and bring to the boil.
Transfer the contents of the work to the heated pot and cook in the oven for approximately 1 hour or until tender. Taste and if desired add a good splash of fish sauce and cook uncovered for another 15 to 30 minutes. Serve with rice.
The banana flower salad was my favourite dish of the day which is funny considering I’m not a fan of the old banana. The flower doesn’t actually carry any banana flavour but has a great crunchy texture. I just hope I can find them at markets somewhere close to home as I’m really keen to give this one a go.
We were lucky enough to have a private class so it was very hands-on. After class, the food is served to you in the lovely cooking school restaurant upstairs. It was a really great morning. We took away some food knowledge, new flavour combinations to try and two Hanoi Cooking School aprons. The market tour and class went for 4.5 hours and cost approximately $65 AUS.
The Hanoi Cooking Centre is run and owned by Australian Chef Tracey Lister, co-author of KOTO – A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam and Vietnamese Street Food.
Hanoi Cooking Centre
44 Chau Long Street
Ba Dinh District, Hanoi
This is not a sponsored post. Al and I paid for all accommodation, tours and classes on our Vietnamese holiday.