Top 4 culinary experiences in Vietnam

Think you know your bo kho from your pho? In this article, take you through the best culinary experiences Vietnam has to offer, and how you can recreate them for yourself
Pho bo, Vietnamese rice noodle soup with sliced beef. Photo: Shutterstock
Pho bo, Vietnamese rice noodle soup with sliced beef. Photo: Shutterstock

Pho bo, Vietnamese rice noodle soup with sliced beef. Photo: Shutterstock

Vietnam is a long, thin country that shares a border with China in the north, and Laos and Cambodia in the west. The fried noodle dishes of the north are heavily influenced by China. Conversely, the further south you go, toward the Mekong Delta, dishes become sweeter and more rice-based, as the climate supports rice paddies, coconut groves and other vegetation that thrives in wetter conditions. Vietnam’s French colonisers also left their culinary mark on the country: pho, one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes, is a blend of Vietnamese noodles and meaty French broth; while baguettes are still a staple of the Vietnamese diet today. With such a unique blend of eastern and western influences, it’s easy to see why Vietnamese cuisine is so popular: where better to learn how to cook it (and eat it, of course) than in Vietnam itself?

1. Vietnam Cookery Centre, Ho Chi Minh

Vietnam Cookery Centre is Ho Chi Minh’s premier culinary institution. Insight Guides’ Culinary Experience trip includes a whole day here. In the morning class, you'll learn the fundamentals of Vietnamese cooking, such as how to make the famous nuoc mam (fish sauce). You'll also be taught how to blend spices to make paste for curries, and how to cook perfect rice, and sticky rice. Your teacher will guide you on Vietnamese dining etiquette, followed by the chance to brush up on your chopstick skills. During the afternoon, you'll try your hand at some classic dishes, such as pho, chao long and bo luc lac.  

2. Dine with a local family

As part of Insight Guides’ Hanoi to Halong fully-customisable trip, you'll be invited to dine with a local family at their home in Hanoi. No doubt the etiquette and chopstick skills you learned at the Vietnam Cookery Centre will come in handy here! Expect your hosts to serve a variety of dishes so you can experience a broad range of flavours, including pho and Vietnamese tea. As your hosts will tell you, the neighbourhood in which they live was destroyed by B52 bombers during the Vietnam War, or, as the Vietnamese call it, the American War.

Bo Luc Lac. Photo: Kirk K/FlickrBo Luc Lac. Photo: Kirk K/Flickr

3. Cooking class at Red Bridge School, Hoi An

When you arrive at Red Bridge School, you will be briefed, served traditional Vietnamese tea, and then whisked off to the colourful market of Hoi An, where you will gather ingredients for the day ahead. Travel back to the cooking school by boat, which takes 25 minutes, and provides you with a unique opportunity to see traditional Vietnamese life. Before the food prep begins, you'll be given a tour of the herb garden by the chef, to familiarise yourself with their appearance and smell. The chef will demonstrate cooking each dish to the class, before you try your hand at it. Afterwards, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy the meal you've just cooked, and then invited to explore the pretty building and gardens. Enjoy this experience as part of Insight Guides’ Vietnam Culinary Discovery trip.

4. KOTO cookery school, Hanoi

Know one, teach one (KOTO) run very popular, hands-on cooking classes in Hanoi, specialising in healthier, lighter dishes. KOTO's teachers guide you through every step of the food prep process, from braving the hustle and bustle of the local market in the early hours, to preparing veg, to washing up your dishes after. Learn the intricacies that go into creating the perfect Vietnamese dish, including spring rolls, seafood dishes, and of course, pho. A half-day cooking class at KOTO is included in Insight Guides’ fully customisable trip, Vietnam Culinary Discovery! 

This article was originally published on 12th August, 2016

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