For our second day in Hoi An, we decided to do a cooking lesson. It was Barry’s idea – he needed the practice!

We decided to do the lesson with Red Bridge as it involved a tour of the market to buy all the ingredients, followed by a lesson where you learnt 5 different dishes and then lunch where you got to eat all the lovely food you made (hopefully it would be edible!)

The first stop of the market was fascinating. We’d walked round it the day before, but this time our guide took us right into it where they were carving up all the meat and fish. For a fresh food market, it wasn’t stinky or dirty like some we had seen. No blood or guts laying on the floor and virtually no flies! We saw all sorts of foods and organs including congealed blood, skinned pigs still with the tails on and skinned chickens still with the legs on. There was a pig’s head – with the face cut out of course and whole fish including sharks! They had tons of fresh fruit and herbs, which looked amazing. As Hoi An city is a traffic free zone, you didn’t have to worry about the fumes from the cars spluttering all over the food.

Once we finished the market tour we had to jump onto some boats and sail down the river to the cooking school. Once at the cooking school we took a tour of their herb garden, where we learnt that lemongrass is good for keeping the snakes away and also for inhaling when you have a cold – who knew? We also saw a giant snail sliming amongst the herbs. Someone shouted this out to the guide and she got very excited saying we could eat it. She quickly changed her mind when she saw it and said ‘No you can’t eat those ones, shame!’

Next we got onto the exciting bit – actually cooking!! Our chef declared very proudly that he had once cooked for Mick Jagger and his very young girlfriend when they came to stay at Red bridge. This was a good sign for us – we would be learning from a chef to the stars!

We then spent the next couple of hours cooking up some traditional Vietnamese dishes including Hoi An Pancakes, Seafood salad in half a pineapple and Fresh rice paper rolls where we even learnt how to make the rice paper. This proved slightly trickier, as on my attempt I spilt the batter everywhere and then when it came to peeling off the pancake from the muslin sheet you had to lay it on, I put a big hole in it! However, when it came to rolling it up, Barry’s was just a loose mess and looked more like a blob than a roll!

It was great to cook with such fresh ingredients and all the herbs and spices created some amazing smells that flowed through the kitchen. Once all the dishes were made, we all got to sit at a table where we were served the dishes with drinks of our choice. It gave us a great opportunity to talk to our fellow travellers and listen to their stories.
After all our hard work was eaten, which was delicious, we then took the boat back to the town. I will definitely be trying these recipes at home, but I think I’ll just leave Barry to do the decorations!