Hoi An, a small city on the south-central coast of Vietnam, has the distinction of being designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It features well-preserved buildings and trading port, dating back hundreds of years. We were drawn to Hoi An by the unique atmosphere of traditional Vietnamese life existing side by side with a thriving tourist trade.
We had flown from Hanoi to Hoi An, arriving in the late afternoon. We wandered the streets and found a restaurant where we had an incredible meal. Since this little restaurant offered a cooking class, Mary-Anna and I decided to join it for the coming morning.
We started the course with the chef taking us on a bike ride to a village where herbs and vegetables are grown. The orderliness and perfection of the gardens was impressive. The produce looked absolutely delicious. It was great to see the source of the greens we were going to be working with.
We pedalled through the village to see fish and duck farming, boats from a neighbouring fishing village, and, on the way back to Hoi An, stopped to see the rice paddies which blanket the countryside from village to village.
Back in Hoi An, we stopped by the market where we were each given 10,000 Vietnamese Dong (about 50 cents) to haggle and purchase select items needed for our cooking class. My task was to buy green mangoes. I couldn’t get the vendors at the various vegetable stalls to give me even one green mango for the price. Eventually, from an obviously disgruntled lady, I was given a small green mango.
Vendors at the market sold all sorts of meats, fish, seafood, and vegetables. The pungent smells and the constant sounds of buying and selling was intoxicating.
Once at the restaurant, we rolled up our sleeves, put on our cooking aprons and dug into our task to make green mango salad, pork spring rolls, mackerel stew in clay pot, garlic greens, rice, and a rose garnish made from tomato. It was great fun to cook under the watchful eye of our chef. It was even more fun to taste the products of our efforts.