If you’re making a trip to Vietnam, you have to visit the colorful, lantern lit city of Hoi An… and if you’re visiting Hoi An, you have to spend a day perfecting your culinary skills at Green Bamboo Cooking School.
Run by multilingual chef van out of the kitchen in her home, attending a class at Green Bamboo was one of the best things I did in Vietnam, and hands down one of the most memorable experiences of my entire trip.
If you’re looking for an authentic Vietnamese experience, or just want to make and eat a ton of delicious food, you’ve got to check it out.
You’ll start your day by being picked up from your hostel or hotel. Then everyone will head to the local market to meet Van. If you haven’t already chosen, you’ll select a meal to prepare from a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes. Everyone has to choose something different, but don’t worry if you don’t get your first choice – you’ll get to sample a bit of what everyone is making!
With rice hats on, the cooking class and I followed Van around the market learning about the different ingredients, and even getting to practice our Vietnamese by helping to purchase some of them – everything from rice, noodles, and veggies to fish, prawns & beef.
It was awesome taking in the sights and smells of the local market, and learning all about the different street foods and what various ingredients are used for. (I’m not going to lie – I was a bit hungover that morning and had to excuse myself from the meat purchasing portion of the market trip... the chopping of raw meet was a bit too much for my, already weak, stomach to handle).
After we finished buying all of our ingredients, we headed to a small local coffee shop and had a cup of infamous Vietnamese drip coffee. If you haven't ever had authentic Vietnamese coffee, it is an absolute must. I will be returning to Vietnam one day… if only for another cup of delicious local coffee… it’s that good.
After recharging with a cup of coffee, we loaded up into the van and drove to Chef Van’s beautiful home to begin preparing our dishes in her spacious kitchen.
I thought I was being pretty basic by choosing spring rolls, but I’ll be damned if I don’t have a newfound respect for those things. HOLY SHIT – they took ages to prep. Dicing prawns, pork, carrots, and other veggies was tedious, not to mention rolling them up once the ingredients were mixed, and frying them to perfection. It took so much more time and care than I thought, (and I will never complain about spring rolls taking a long time when I order them at a restaurant ever again).
Despite the wide variety of dishes being prepped, and the number of people in her kitchen, Van still did an awesome job of directing and assisting everyone. She was informative, candid, and made the class fun and comfortable for everyone, all while maintaining an impressive level of professionalism. Even me, the lone solo traveler, (with little to no cooking experience), felt at ease and welcome.
We drank beers as we cooked, and tried a bit of everyone’s dish as they were completed. By course 10, I was in the corner clutching my food baby. Everything was so good, and I didn’t want to let anything go to waste… but when we got to a fish curry by course 11, I physically could not keep the squid and octopus down (and opted for a napkin instead).
I DIDN’T spit out the squid because it was disgusting… I spat it out because I have literally never been so disgustingly full in my entire life... not even on American Thanksgiving. However, after a while… I did manage to free up enough room for the dragon fruit and shot of liquor we shared around Van’s kitchen table for dessert.
When the class was finished we each received a goodie bag filled with special Vietnamese cooking chopsticks, a julienne peeler, and a cookbook filled with all of Van’s recipes.
Though I didn’t attend any other classes in Vietnam, I can’t imagine how any could possible compare to Green Bamboo Cooking School. After researching other cooking schools, Van’s was the only one I found that is run out of her home. Having the class in her cozy kitchen gave it a much more comfortable and authentic feel.
You may be thinking, "Well, that all sounds great, but how much is it?" Green Bamboo Cooking School is extremely affordable at just US$45 per person. This low price includes pick up and return to your hotel, the market experience, hands on participation in a guaranteed small class setting… not to mention drinks and the biggest, most delicious meal you’ll have in your life.
Whether you love cooking, food, learning new things, or just want a fun day out, Green Bamboo Cooking School will not disappoint, (and will undoubtedly make you love Vietnam even more).