We got crabs and pleased Gordon Ramsey

Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
Trip End May 01, 2013

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Where I stayed
Sunshine HOtel

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, December 20, 2012

For once, Paula was up before Vikki and so, feeling all productive, went down to reception to book a Vietnamese cookery class, an extra night in the hotel, an airport transfer, and hired bikes for the following day so that we could get out and be all touristy and active (as well as take our life in our hands in the crazy traffic flows...).

Feeling hungry after all that effort we both went down to breakfast and were greeted with a Vietnamese buffet consisting of fried rice, sweet and sour fish, garlic greens and chicken and corn soup! Bit strange for breakfast but Paula embraced it whole-heartedly! Vikki kept it simple having begged the waitress for two fried eggs!

At 11.30am we were picked up by a man called Tai for our Vietnamese cookery class. We headed to a local market where we were soon joined by Pauline and Jack (a retired couple from Burnley) and started the experience by purchasing fresh ingredients from the colourful products on offer.

We had requested a menu style dominated by seafood so that both Vikki and I could take full advantage and Vikki asked Tai if we could forgo boiling live crabs because she didn't want to hear them 'scream'! He did his best to find a fresh dead crab and bought a live one which he 'stunned' in the freezer before it hit the pot!

The menu choice seemed to suit Jack and Pauline too - Pauline chose to be a vegetarian when abroad (even though a fully fledged meat eater when in Burnley), Vikki a pescatarian, Paula and Jack - carnivores. The only person who was slightly bemused by this was Tai who now had to think up numerous menus to suit all palettes and preferences!

He didn't seem to mind too much though and let his imagination run wild. Pretty soon we were skipping round the market, each with a basket in hand, gathering fresh fish, morning glory, hot chillies and spices, fresh tamarind and a myriad of other colourful and fragrant ingredients. This part of the day was almost as exciting as putting the ingredients and Vietnamese cooking techniques to use!

Tai was a very accomplished chef, he was brought up in Paris to Vietnamese immigrant parents and had learned to cook from his mother. His English was excellent (spoken with a pseudo Viet/French accent) and he was a very friendly, patient and accommodating chap.

The choice of dishes was vast and we went from the market to a local herb garden to gather another basket full of fresh leaves, Asian basil and coriander. Vikki managed to hug another dog and talk to a pretty cow whilst we were there...probably hugged a tree too....

With ingredients purchased we headed to the cookery school which was housed in a rustic bamboo restaurant on the beach. It was a beautiful setting and we were very excited to begin our lesson (p.s. for those that think Paula had been abducted by aliens at this point - she was embracing it whole heartedly...).

Professionally done, we were faced with a large kitchen island laid out with four individual cooking hobs each with its own set of fresh herbs, oils, sauces and spices and the biggest pair of chopsticks you have ever seen (turns out they were cooking chopsticks that allow the chef enough distance from hot spitting oil - or does it?). Either way we were pleased, but not as pleased as when we discovered it was an open bar as far as beer was concerned, Paula thought it rude not to show gratitude and accept, culturally speaking.

The next few hours passed in a haze of chopping, crushing, infusing, frying (we discovered that the cooking chopsticks would need to be at least four metres long to stop the hot oil from splashing all over novice chefs..!) and with a little help from Tai we created some amazing dishes from tamarind tiger prawns to tofu and noodle soup, whole pan fried sea bass with garlic, chilli and lemongrass dressing to lightly fried rice paper spring rolls, banana flower salad and shrimp pancakes.

By far the most messy endeavour was cracking the crab claws to accompany the dressed crab (Vikki survived the boiling process - the crabs didn't...) and when we were done we were shown how to present the dishes in a simple authentic Vietnamese way which added to their impact.

Not only did we get free beer, we were also able to eat the dishes we created and by the ninth dish this was getting very filling! Another point to Tash!

We ended the day with mangosteen - which Vikki and I had requested as we were curious to taste this strange looking fruit. This appeared to be the last thing we could possibly fit in and with the onset of the food sweats we thanked chef Tai for a wonderful experience, said farewell to Jack and Pauline (Jack had managed to get quite tipsy over the course of the day) and headed home to undo our top buttons and perspire garlic and chilli aromas in a collective fug engulfing our room...
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annewardell on

poor little crabs! ...but they DID look very yummy when cooked, as does the rest of your gorgeous banquet!! xxxxxxxx
PS: Why is Vikki's little puppy sticking his tongue out?!

Sue on

What a fantastic day! I am madly jealous!

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