Saturday, July 25, 2009

It was two days ago, but feels like a year

As recommended by friends who recently visited Hoi An, I signed up for a lesson with Miss Lu at the Morning Glory Cooking School. 

Our class began with a walking tour of the local market, which was crowded, stimulating and not overly hygienic, exactly like other markets I've seen in Vietnam: 

After being shown how to choose fresh mackerel, lemongrass, and turmeric, we went back to the shiny demonstration kitchen where Miss Lu gave us a 2-hour lesson in preparing restaurant-quality Vietnamese food. Miss Lu, who is 29, has worked in restaurants since she was twelve and she knows how to carve a perfect rose out of a tomato.
I didn't pick up that particular trick, but did discover this brilliant tool for julienning green papaya -- or anything!

It's like a very wide, sharp lemon zester, much less cumbersome than a mandoline. 

We also learned that the Vietnamese roast peanuts by submerging them in hot sand, a process that supposedly renders them extra-delicious, and we learned to make bahn xeo, a crispy rice flour/coconut crepe that I once ate at a restaurant in San Jose, California, but have never seen on a menu again: 
As soon as I get home I'm going to try cooking these myself. Lu's bahn xeo was one of the best things I've eaten since we got here.

We also made a world-beating grilled chicken, the marinade for which included all 13 pastes, powders, and condiments you see in this photograph:

The chicken was my father's favorite dish. 
Or was that Miss Lu? Ewww. I can't believe I just typed that. But she WAS very charming and funny and smart.
I also made my own (fairly) professional-looking spring roll:

I didn't eat it, though. Lu said the raw vegetables were washed in "mineral water," but I'm extremely -- perhaps overly -- cautious about the food. It's a complete drag, picking every sprig of cilantro off of my soup. I'm looking forward to eating a salad and drinking a giant glass of tap water when I get home.


  1. Great post and photos. Of course, I always want more and more---but commend you on doing as much writing as you do in the midst of a busy exciting trip. You will be pulling up all these memories for years to come. As you head home, you can congratulate yourself on a trip well planned and executed!

    And know that you are eagerly awaited at this end of the voyage!


  2. I'm looking forward to a bahn xeo. Soon!
    As for the spring roll. I think that sort of thing should never have a transparent wrap. One reason most spring rolls are good is you can't see what you'r eating.