Had a great day today, it's cooking course day!
We were up nice and early as we needed to search out an ATM before our class to pay for it. After visiting three cash points and them saying there was a problem the last one said our PIN was incorrect. We knew it wasn't but went back to our room to check our details. They weren't wrong, we managed to find a fourth cash point and get some money. The maximum withdrawal on most cash points is 2 million dong, only about £62, which is annoying because some cash points charge you and so you have to make several withdrawals. Anyway, after a stress and panic about our bank cards and money we headed to the harbour for a quick drink before the class. We sat and had a coffee and waited for our class to start at 10am.
The cooking course we have booked on to is Gioan, it has cost us around £24 each, including a market trip and five different dishes that we chose ourselves yesterday.
The first part of the trip was a market visit. Our lovely instructor, Vina walked with us to the market to buy some ingredients for the class and handed us a shopping bag each. We strolled around the local market and she pointed things out to us and explained about different ingredients.
We tasted different and unusual things, like tapioca and banana flower and smelled different herbs. We walked around the meat section, where slabs of meat, offal and bones were laid out on wooden tables and through the fish market. These had small local fish, big tunas, huge tiger prawns, crabs and ladies sat making fresh fish cakes. Everything was on wooden tables piled on ice so the floor was extrmely soggy and fishy but it was good fun looking at all the different unusual fish. We walked around the noodle stalls where huge baskets of fresh noodles, all varying sizes and colours were explained.
It was great and we saw some weird and wonderful fruits and vegetables we have never seen before.
We made a short walk back and had some cold drinks at the school before getting started. Aprons on and hands washed our first task was spring rolls.
We picked these to learn as we have had so many delicious spring rolls in Vietnam, they are in a different league to the rest of Southeast Asia. We prepped, carrot, turnip, peas and onion and rolled the ingredients as well as a huge shrimp in the rice paper.
As we had not eaten breakfast we fried them for three minutes on each side and ate them straight away. Vina taught us how to check the heat of the oil and we used cooking chop sticks for all the pan work.
They were yummy, fresh and were rolled in salad and herbs and dipped in a sweet chilli sauce.
Next we made crispy wontons, a Hoi An speciality. We chopped pineapple, tomato, garlic, spring onion, carrot, turnip and cooked this with chopped pork, chilli, stock powder and oil. The fresh wonton skin was deep fried and then the mixture was placed on top, sort of like a huge nacho. It was yummy, sweet and sour, spicy and crunchy.
By this point Chelsea was starting to fill up with three more dishes to go so she got told off by Vina for having a soft drink which must have filled her up.
Next we made Cao Lau, another Hoi An speciality but this time a noodle dish. We had to marinade pork in garlic, five spice and soy sauce. We then added bean sprouts and noodles, blanched first, into our bowls and cooked the pork with paprika and more garlic. The sauce and pork is then poured over the noodles and served with fresh herbs as a warm salad. We have had it before a few times but eating our own was so much better and it tasted gorgeous, firm noddles with a rich pork sauce and fresh herbs.
The last two dishes we did simultaneously. We made fish BBQ'd in a banana leaf and chilli and lemongrass chicken. The fish in banana leaf was marinated in a paste made of lemongrass, garlic, turmeric, spring onion, oyster sauce, fish sauce, soya sauce, sesame oil, sugar, chilli and oil. It was wrapped in the banana leaf like a present and then put on a grill over a flame for ten minutes. It was devine, our favourite dish and the blue fin tuna was a really firm and meaty fish. The chicken was great too, a really garlicky, spicy and lemony chicken fried and served with rice.
By the end we were totally full to the top and could not have eaten anything else. The course was brilliant, the food was really good and the instructor was funny and informative. She made little songs up while we cooked and laughed and told us off if we didn't listen properly or did anything wrong. She asked us to sing on demand and introduced ingredients with a hello. 'Say hello shrimp' she would demand, 'say hello stock powder', 'hello stock powder' Chelsea repeated. It seems Chelsea and Vina are as mad as each other. At several points customers walked in enquiring about booking and watched us. We must have looked like we were having fun as several people booked on. The class is in a beautiful old colonial building right in the harbour front. She gave us a personalised recipe book with everything we had cooked in and Liam bought an apron and Chelsea bought a shopping bag as a memento.
Afterward we walked to the harbour for a cold drink as today has been scorching. We sat and people watched and then decided to go back to our rooms to relax as we were so full. On the way back we decided to book our diving course. We have enrolled onto a PADI Open Water course starting tomorrow with Cham Island Diving. It has cost $350 each and in three days time we will be qualified to dive up to 18 metres. Tomorrow is a theory day, we have been given the PADI course book which we have to learn and then in the afternoon we will get used to the equipment in a four star resort pool. Then we will do two days of diving in open water and will be tested at the end before becoming qualified. We are very excited and a bit nervous but Chelsea spoke to one of the instructors who put her mind at ease. We start at 9am tomorrow.
We then thought we better go back to our room before we spontaneously enrol on anymore expensive courses! We read our diving book all afternoon in preparation for tomorrow but had to be out and at the shoe shop for 5pm for Chelsea fitting. She is really happy with her made to measure leather sandals but the angle straps were a little high so they are going to alter them and we can pick them up tomorrow. They are amazing to say they were made in one day.
For the evening we went back to our harbour spot and had a drink.
Chelsea had a happy hour cocktail as she can't face any more beer and Liam obviously had a 13p beer. We shared a pizza as we couldn't eat a full meal and it was homemade and thin, we savoured it.
We are really excited about tomorrow and excited to learn something new. Hoi An so far has been such a great place. Not only is it beautiful and just walking around the streets is a sight in itself but there is so much to do. We just can't fit everything in we want to do..... We will have to stay a while longer