As well as heritage architecture and rustic cafes, Hoi An also offers fun hands-on learning experiences. Two of these experiences that we highly recommend are the cooking class, hosted by Red Bridge Cooking School, and the lantern making class by Lifestart Foundation.
These hands-on experiences are fun and worthwhile as you don’t just gain head knowledge, but get to use your hands and make something to eat or something to bring home!
Hoi An Cooking Class
Cooking class is a fun family activity where everyone can learn about and experience a culture in an engaging way. Hoi An is an ideal place to take Vietnamese cooking class. Their high quality sessions are very popular amongst international visitors.
- Enjoy a scenic boat ride to the Red Bridge Cooking School
- Experience the Hoi An market while learning about ingredients in Vietnamese cooking
- Learn to make Vietnamese dishes
- Visit a Vietnamese herb garden
- Small class of up to 6 people
- Bring home skills and recipes to share with your family and friends
Vietnamese cooking has distinct Chinese influences. This is reflected in their use of ingredients. In Vietnamese cooking, you will commonly find fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, and fresh herbs. Vietnamese cuisine uses minimal dairy products and oil, and is considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world.
Herbs used in Vietnamese cooking include lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime, and Thai basil leaves. You will see and smell many of these herbs firsthand during the tour of the herb garden as part of your cooking class.
Meat, such as fish, pork and shrimp, are also commonly used in Vietnamese cooking. Such meat is also used in making the Vietnamese spring rolls, one of the most famous Vietnamese dishes.
Process of cooking class
The learning journey begins with a trip to a local market, where your guide will introduce Vietnamese ingredients to you. Then you will take a scenic 30-minute boat ride along the Hoi An River to the Red Bridge Cooking School. This is a great opportunity to take photos of the local life by the river.
Arriving at the Red Bridge Cooking School, you can walk through their herb garden and learn how to pick and process herbs that give Vietnam’s cuisine its distinctive flavors.
The Red Bridge Cooking School is located on the banks of Hoi An River, which makes it a beautiful and ideal location for your cooking class. Moreover, the open-air design of the school means that you can enjoy the breeze while taking your class.
The two-hour cooking session will start early in the afternoon. During the class, you will learn from an experienced chef and try to do it yourself. You can learn about 3 to 5 typical Vietnamese delicacies such as fresh spring rolls with shrimp, Hoi An pancakes, seafood salad, or Quang Nam chicken noodle soup.
Should you have any preference for dishes to make, you can inform the chef in advance. There are great alternatives for vegetarians too!
Apart from cooking, you will also learn to make Vietnamese style plate decorations, involving impressive vegetable and fruit carvings.
The best part of the day: At the end of your cooking lesson you can enjoy the food you have made with your new friends!
Below is a selection of the Vietnamese delicacies you may learn to make during the cooking lesson:
Quang Nam Chicken Noodle Soup
Quang Nam Chicken Noodle Soup, as its name indicates, is from Quang Nam. Whereas Pho has a light broth, Quang Nam Chicken Noodle Soup has a much richer broth which barely covers the noodles.
The taste is slightly sweet and spicy. The dish includes a variety of vegetables such as morning-glory cress, young banana flowers, and herbs.
Hoi An Pancakes
Hoi An Pancakes are not like normal pancakes. Firstly, they are savory and eaten hot. They are folded in half and have meat and vegetable fillings. Secondly, the batter is made of rice flour seasoned with turmeric powder, giving it a crunchy texture and yellow color.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Vietnamese spring rolls are much lighter and healthier than its Chinese counterpart which is usually deep fried. Rice paper is used for the wrap.
The fillings can vary, but usually include ground meat, shrimp, glass noodles, and shredded carrots. They are served with fish sauce mixed with hoisin sauce. It is a well loved dish all around the world for its taste.
Hoi An Lantern Making Class
The ancient city of Hoi An is often associated with lanterns. There is even a Lantern Festival in Hoi An. You can learn how these lanterns are made at the Lifestart Foundation.
- Learn how to make a miniature Hoi An lantern
- Take home a unique Vietnamese lantern
- Learn how local artists from disadvantaged backgrounds found change through opportunities offered by Lifestart Foundation
- Contribute to the local livelihood through shopping hand-made fair-trade products
Vietnamese lanterns are made of bamboo for the frame, with either silk or paper for the screen. The glowing bright colors of these lanterns look very beautiful in the night.
The 90-minute workshop to make a miniature lantern at the Lifestart Foundation is a great way to experience Vietnamese culture. Through this opportunity, you can learn making a traditional lantern, as well as learning about how a philanthropic organization can have impact on the livelihood of the locals.
During the workshop, there will also be a short presentation about how the foundation assists disadvantaged people in Hoi An to enjoy a sustainable lifestyle.
You will also have the chance to visit their fair-trade shop, selling products made on site. The shop sells anything hand-made from greeting cards, bracelets from paper beads, to stuffed toys. The makers of these products receive all profits earned from the sale of their products. You can show your support for the locals by purchasing some of these fair-trade goods.
History of lanterns
The use of lanterns in Vietnam is one of the evidences of Chinese legacy in Vietnamese culture. Lanterns originate from China, dating far back to about 230 BC. Now lanterns are usually used mainly at festivals such as the Lantern Festival, or the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Whereas Chinese lanterns are usually red in color and round in shape, Vietnamese lanterns are much more varied in shape and color. The glowing, brightly colored lanterns floating on the river is an iconic sight of Hoi An.
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