The journey to Mr Tan’s farm and Vietnamese cookery school begins with a fascinating trip through the moped filled streets of Ho Chi Minh. Being picked up from our hotel we head off into the city – a place on the move in almost every direction possible and the only thing to do is go with it.
As we drive through the city, across intersections which seem to have cross traffic flowing at all times and we weave and dodge across narrow roads and out over bridges across bustling rivers, the idea of a peaceful farm seems a million miles away. But only an hour out of the city the traffic dies away and the skyscrapers are replaced with wooden and tin constructions in among concrete and brick homes.
Down a short dirt track we pull up at a small farm boarded by a series of buildings and a large open air kitchen where we’ll be preparing our dishes.
Our morning session with Mr Tan, a famous face on Vietnamese TV cookery shows, begins with a tour of the farm’s crop fields. We’ll be spending an hour here, learning first-hand how rice grows and when is the best time to pick it, and collecting all the vegetables and fruits we’ll be needing for the four recipes we will be preparing. As we pass through the fields Mr Tan stops us and quizzes us in his fun and friendly way about the plants we come across (none of our group could guess the peanut plant!)
In one makeshift barn we discover bags hanging from the ceiling, each of which is producing the most beautiful oyster mushrooms, which Mr Tan tells us is part of his family’s farming heritage.
With baskets brimming with fresh veggies and herbs all picked from the farm fields along with a large ripe papaya freshly plucked from the tree we head into the covered outdoor cookery school.
We’re joined by Mr Tan’s team, a fellow traveller and a chef in training who is planning to open a Pho restaurant in Japan in the coming months. Together we all follow Mr Tan as he guides us through his step by step programme to quickly produce tasty sauces for our dishes, including vegan versions too.
Soon we’ve got the knack of sauces and we’re making our own delicious hot Banh Mi (tasty warm filled baguettes), as well as stir fries with mock meats and sticky veggie-beef dishes, finishing with the most delicious sweet pancakes filled with bananas, sesame and peanuts.
I was really impressed with our eldest son at nine years old who had his own cook station and was assisted by Mr Tan’s helpers who guided him with his knife skills and prepping his veggies. It was great to see him keeping up with the adults and really enjoying the food he had prepared all by himself.
I have to admit the dishes we made were all incredibly tasty and after our morning session I was pleased with how much I remembered from the recipes and even long after I can still recall the ingredients and measurements. It must be down to Mr Tan’s method of instruction – guiding us simply and calmly through the preparation. I was also pleased to find I was able to find the ingredients once back at home so we can whip up a Vietnamese meal for all the family.
We’ll be posting some of the recipes in future posts and you can find out more about the Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class at their website here.
We loved this day of cooking and exploration of Vietnamese food, it was one of the highlights of our trip and my son still talks about it. If you’re travelling to this area of Vietnam we whole-heartedly recommend this wonderful Vietnamese cookery school.
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