Last night, while enjoying a few glasses of 3,000 dong fresh beer at Cafe 43, we also decided to sign up for a cooking class. Most cooking classes aren’t cheap (usually upwards of $30 per person), which has meant that we haven’t signed up for one yet during our travels through Asia. When we heard that Cafe 43 does $7 classes, plus the cost of food, we made sure to sign up for the next day!
We chose two dishes to make – banh xeo and chicken curry. We got there the next day at 12, and were greeted by a table of 3 other people all ready for our cooking class!
We had somehow chosen the exact same dishes as a French girl also taking the class, so we ended up making all our food together. It was fun! We were given a pen and paper to copy down the recipe, and the chef instructed us on what to do with the ingredients in a step by step manner.
First, we made the chicken curry – apparently we were hungry, because we immediately ate it when we were done and forgot to take any pictures. It was delicious though! Next, we had to wait for the other couple to finish making their stuffed squid (which looked so good!). Luckily, we had super cheap fresh beer and good company, so the time flew by. Before we knew it, it was time to make banh xeo!
Banh xeo are a type of Vietnamese rice flour pancake, usually filled with shrimp and bean sprouts. They are deep fried in more oil than I would cook with in a week until they’re crispy and golden brown on the outside. They were a little tricky to make, especially because the only utensil they give you is super long chopsticks! It turns out that chopsticks can be used in place of a spatula, a whisk, a wooden spoon – really anything if you put your mind to it. It was definitely interesting, although I don’t think I’ll keep doing it that way at home.
Banh xeo are delicious. You eat them by snipping one into four pieces with scissors, and rolling a piece in rice paper with a handful of lettuce and herbs. Then you dip your banh xeo rice paper roll into a yummy peanut sauce, and voila! Delicious.
After the cooking class, we basically just ambled around Hoi An for a while. The Old Town is so charming, with all of its paper lanterns and yellow houses. We got some smoothies across from the market, and watched Vietnamese women use a scraping machine to get the meat out of countless coconuts. Another machine whirring near by ground the coconut meat, and mixed it with coconut water to make a river of deliciously creamy coconut milk.
We walked around, admiring all the wares for sale in the seemingly endless tailor shops lining the road. Hoi An is the place to get anything made to fit – dress shirts, suits, leather bags, custom shoes. Neither of us bought anything, although I was close to getting a leather backpack or shoes. In the end, I decided against it because I didn’t really need anything, and it’s hard to justify spending a hundred dollars on a bag you don’t really need. Even if it’s super cute. It’s definitely hard not to buy anything though, when every shop has such beautiful pieces on display!
At night, we admired the colourful glowing lanterns illuminating the yellow houses for the last time. I’m going to miss this enchanting place – it may be overpriced, but it’s charm makes you see why it’s still so popular!