Monday, April 02, 2012

Cooking school in Ho Chi Minh City

One of the things I really wanted to do in Vietnam was try some cooking classes. The Lonely Planet guidebook listed one cooking school in Saigon, the Vietnam Cookery Centre. We signed up for an afternoon class and were the only students. Chef Bao, at right, was nominally our instructor, while Miss Linh, below, was more active in engaging us with translations of his instructions and monitoring our progress.
The menu included spring rolls with dipping sauce, sour clam soup, caramel pork in a clay pot, steamed coconut rice and steamed bananas in coconut milk.

The fried spring rolls were wrapped in a kind of net rice paper I had never seen before, called banh trang re. It made for a much lighter roll. And so far I can't find it for sale in Denver or even online. That's a bummer.

We each had our own work station, with most ingredients pre-chopped and/or pre-measured, so our cooking was mostly an assembly process. That seems to be a fairly standard cooking-school practice – it's an efficient way to demonstrate how a dish is put together without having to spend a lot of time mincing ingredients.

We got to pause halfway through to enjoy our spring rolls, which are typically eaten rolled up in a lettuce leaf along with some rice noodles and herbs, and dipped in fish sauce enhanced with lemon juice, sugar, garlic and chile.

Then we cooked the rest of the dishes.
The caramel pork was very rich and tasty, and was greatly enhanced by the rice that was steamed inside the coconut. The sour clam soup was interesting but probably not something I would make again. The bananas in coconut milk were made for us, as dessert. Delicious!

In all, our experience was positive, despite some communication glitches. We were charmed by the classroom and by the sincerity of our teachers. They gave us each a certificate of accomplishment, a book of the recipes we made and some very pretty postcards as souvenirs.

Since our visit, the school has moved to the main tourist district, near Ben Thanh Market, which should help their endeavor a lot. (The space we were in, while charming, is far away and hard to find. Our cab driver got lost!)

If you're planning a visit to Saigon, you should give them a try!

Vietnam Cookery Centre
26 Ly Tu Trong ( Floor 4 )
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: (84-8) 3827-0349 or 3823-8085,


  1. I would love to take a cooking class in Vietnam. Everything is automatically Gluten-Free! When we were in Thailand we were amazed by the attention to detail--each dish had carefully cut fruit or vegetables--even when we were on a boat being chased by pirates...

  2. Delores, it was indeed.

    Diana, what?!? Pirates?!? I want to hear that story.

    And you're right, there was very little in the way of wheat products ... except the beer!