Having some time in one city meant being able to enjoy things like a local cooking class. The Saturday morning that we attended, we were the only ones, and thus had our own private cooking class. One of the chefs first took us to the local market nearby. The stalls in the market sold everything from root vegetables to fish to pork/poultry, frogs, quail eggs, silkworms. We noticed that there was no stinky odor, especially by the places that sold the fish and meat. The chef told us that this is because everything in the market is sold within the first few hours. By 12:30pm, almost everything is sold off to restaurants, local street food vendors, or the housewives cooking dinner for the family. The market takes a siesta for a couple hours and around 3pm, brings in a new truckload of foods for the evening. Almost everything gets sold that very day!
After touring the market, we came back to the cooking class where we were joined by another chef who helped us prepare lunch. Our lunch included beef pho (this they mainly made for us to eat because the broth has to cook for 8 hours), a mango and herb salad, pork springrolls with fried shallots (we also made the dipping sauces), deep fried shredded potato with shrimp, and for dessert, banana cream. During the class, we also cooked and ate some of the stranger things we saw and bought at the market, such as silkworms and an egg with a duck fetus inside. The silkworms were panfried with a little oil and hot peppers. Tasted like mashed up peanuts. Supposedly the food of the future with so much protein and the fact you can find these everywhere. The duck embryo egg was … interesting. It was boiled and the shell peeled off. The chef mashed it a couple times so there was mix of egg yolk and parts of the duck embryo in the glass. Yes, you could clearly see the head and body of the duck. She added a little salt and pepper and then scooped up a spoonful for each of us to try. Tasted egg-y and chicken-y with some crunches of cartilage and soft bone. Didn’t taste bad as long as you could block out the idea of what you were eating in your head. This is a pretty common breakfast for the Vietnamese. The chef said she had four of these that morning.
In the end, the lunch that we prepared for ourselves was delicious as the chef helped us with any mistakes we were making. We ate it in the upstairs dining room with a complimentary local made rice wine. They sent us off with free cookbooks, aprons, and full and happy bellies. For those in Hanoi, this is a wonderful way to learn about the local foods and they even provide an additional tour of the street food vendors. The only regret we had was that we did this towards the end of our stay in Hanoi instead of at the beginning. The place is called Hanoi Cooking Centre.