Food plays a huge role in Vietnamese culture. Yet a lot of visitors are nervous to scratch below the surface of the well known classic Vietnamese dishes like Pho and Banh Mi. One of the best things to do in Hoi An is a cooking class. The calibre of schools here is higher than I’ve seen elsewhere in Vietnam, which combined with the beautiful countryside setting makes it a must-have experience in Hoi An. Here’s a peek at what I got up to in my cooking class in Hoi An with Thuan Tinh Cookery School.
Hoi An Market Tour
After an early pick-up, we dove headfirst into the Hoi An Central Market. Our chef for the day, Hon, took us on a tour around the market to collect all the ingredients we needed. Having a local guide meant we learnt not only about the fresh produce being sold but also about how the market is set up. The market is a hive of activity, with colourful vegetables, mounds of dried produce and even live fish and chickens being sold.
Paddling through coconut groves in Hoi An
Once we had finished picking up all the ingredients, we headed to the Thuan Tinh Island Cookery School. The market runs alongside the riverfront so we jumped aboard a boat and headed 20 mins down the river. The Thuan Tinh cooking school is set among a beautiful coconut grove, so we moved onto smaller paddle-boats and headed into the grove. This journey to the cooking school was one of my favourite parts of the day.
Cooking Class in Hoi An
The all-important question: “What do you cook during this Vietnamese Cooking Class?” During the Thuan Tinh Island cooking class we made (and more importantly ate) 4 traditional Vietnamese dishes. For each dish we were treated to a demonstration by Hon, followed by our chance to cook and eat our food while it was still hot. Spreading the meals out like this broke the day up nicely, but as someone with a small appetite, I must admit I was struggling to finish the final dish. Best to come a little bit hungry.
1️⃣ Gỏi cuốn – fresh spring rolls
2️⃣ Bánh xèo – crispy Vietnamese pancakes
3️⃣ Bún bò nam bộ – beef noodle salad
4️⃣ Phở bò – beef noodle soup
1️⃣ Gỏi cuốn – fresh spring rolls
The first dish we made on our cooking class was Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. These rice paper rolls are filled with salad, herbs and shrimps – they’re probably one of the easiest Vietnamese dishes to make. We also made peanut dipping sauce (nuoc leo) which went down a treat.
2️⃣ Bánh xèo – rice pancakes
Next, we learned how to make banh xeo, crispy pancakes, filled with pork and shrimp. Before we could cook the banh xeo we had to prepare rice milk which is used as the base of the batter mixture. It was super quick and simple to make – you just grind rice and water together in a stone mortar. The rice milk is then mixed with herbs and seasoning to make the pancake batter.
Hon artfully demonstrated how to flip the pancake halfway cooking, to ensure it was cooked all the way through. My attempt at flipping was not quite so artful. Not quite on-the-floor disastrous, but I did need 3 support staff assisting in a patch-up job. Thankfully my end product still tasted amazing. Along with the pancakes we prepared a common Vietnamese dipping sauce called nuoc cham, which is a mix of chilli, rice vinegar, kumquat, sugar and salt. To eat the banh xeo, you wrap a folded pancake in salad leaves and dip in nuoc cham.
3️⃣ Bún bò nam bộ – Beef noodle salad
The third dish of the Vietnamese cooking class with Thuan Ninh Island Cookery School was a zesty beef noodle salad. The salad was the easiest of the dishes to recreate, with a pocket of herbs hidden under a mound of vermicelli noodles, with a refreshing soy sauce vinaigrette and sizzling beef on top.
4️⃣ Phở bò – Beef noodle soup
We saved the most iconic Vietnamese dish for last; Pho. Pronounced /fuh/, this classic and much loved Vietnamese dish is the epitome of fast food being cooked in a matter of minutes. At the start of class, we prepared a beef broth and left it bubbling while we cooked out other dishes, leaving us just to dip the noodles, bean sprouts and beef into boiling water before serving and slurping.
This cooking class with Thuan Tinh Island cooking school was the perfect way to learn about Vietnamese cuisine, as well as getting some insight into Vietnamese fresh markets and an opportunity to see some of the Hoi An countryside. Plus, the dishes learned to make for a unique souvenir to take away from your trip to Vietnam.
The tuition was brilliant; Hon and his many assistants were extremely attentive, always double-checking we remembered the steps and making sure all the dishes tasted amazing. The level of English was very high and the small class size meant that the experience was kept intimate.
The Lowdown on doing a cooking class in Hoi An
Book your own cooking experience with Thuan Tinh cooking school online. The classes are small in size so you need to book in advance to guarantee a space.
💰 $39 / 910k
👤 Small class sizes
✍ For more information on where to stay and other things to do in Hoi An, check out my travel guide to Hoi An.