Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam Travel With Kids

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Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Travel With KidsLike many people, food plays a large role in our family travel. We love trying new things and seeing what each culture grows, sells and eats. One of the best ways to experience this, we’ve found, is through cooking classes. Naturally, taking a cooking class in Ho Chi Minh City was one of the things in Vietnam we wanted to do.

We took one together in Chiang Mai, and it was most certainly one of our fondest memories. There was a trip to the market to buy supplies while the guide explained all the vegetables and spices we weren’t familiar with (which were many). Then we moved to an outdoor kitchen, where each of us — my 11- and 8-year-olds included — were given our own cooking stations. Opportunities for learning agriculture, botany, history and responsibility (knives, open flames, etc) abound in situations like these. So while in Vietnam, we wanted to experience that again.

Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam Travel With Kids

Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Travel With Kids

Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class

There are a number of cooking classes and food tours in most major Vietnamese cities. Indeed, everyone we’ve met raved about the Saigon Street Eats tours, but we ran out of time. Instead, we settled on a Ho Chi Minh Cooking Class, and were very happy with our choice.

One downside for some people may be that it involves a drive outside Ho Chi Minh City. The advantage of this, however, is that there is an on-site farm where you pick your own herbs for your dishes. The instructor went through each row of the gardens, explaining each herb, which dishes you find it in, and any traditional medicinal properties. He had spent years in Australia as a chef. His accent might still be difficult for some people to follow at times, but we enjoyed the thorough explanations we received on each of the ingredients.

Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Travel With Kids

Choosing what to cook

The menu we chose was fun to create, but I’d recommend choosing your dishes carefully. We chose to make bánh xèo (“sizzling cakes”), the Vietnamese version of France’s savory crepe. These are fantastic — so much so that we had already eaten huge ones just the day before, stuffing ourselves to the point of discomfort. Therefore, we weren’t particularly thrilled to see it on the menu again the next day (why-o-why did we eat it again the day before?).

Cooking Bánh Xèo

Also, sizzling cakes are best when cooked by someone who knows what they’re doing, so that they’re crackling and crunchy on the edges without being burned. We’re new to this, so ours weren’t perfect and quite doughy — our fault, not the chef’s. Had I known the timing it would take to cook properly, I would have made something different. In truth, had I never eaten an excellent one before, I probably would have liked it more. As I said earlier, it was unfortunate we just had exquisite ones at Banh Xeo 46A the day before. Here’s what a proper one looks like (you use the leafy greens on the right to wrap around it).

Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Travel With KidsCrab Vegetable Salad

We had another surprise with our vegetable dish. We chose “crab vegetable salad” thinking, naturally, that it was a mix of crab and vegetables in a salad. Well, it was actually a leafy green known locally as “crab vegetable,” and this is what we made into a salad. It was good though, especially if you like earthy, mineral-tinged flavors similar to spinach.

Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Travel With KidsCooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Travel With Kids

Banana Spring Rolls

Aside from spicy foods, our kids are quite adventurous eaters, but I know what dish was their favorite. Not your usual Vietnamese dessert, this was one of the chef’s creations, and it was as simple as it was delicious: banana spring rolls.

That’s right. We simply chopped up some bananas, added a dash of peanuts, sugar and sesame and then rolled them up like regular spring rolls, fried them crispy brown and served them with coconut cream. Amazing.

Cu Chi Tunnel Tour

We chose a tour add-on for our class, and I’d recommend this is you plan to go to places like the Cu Chi tunnels and nearby rubber plantations. We wanted to see them, but didn’t want to use an entire day for it. Adding them onto this cooking class was certainly the way to go for us.

We experienced all of these places in the same day with our own guide (not a tour bus). It turned out to be cheaper than if we had done them separately with some large group. This tour also included stopping at a rice paper shop. We tried our hand at making some ourselves — not as easy as it looks.

Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Travel With KidsSurprise gift from cooking class

As we left, our teacher presented us with certificates for the class, and then told us to wait for a minute while he went to get something. He returned with an intricately carved watermelon, emblazoned with a birthday message for me. I turned 43 that day, and this was exactly where I wanted to be on my birthday. If you’re headed to Vietnam with kids, I can certainly recommend this as an ideal way to spend any special occasion you have in mind.

Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City - Vietnam Travel With Kids

Have you been to Vietnam with kids? What did you do? How about cooking classes somewhere? What would you recommend?

 

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