I knew that I wanted to do cooking school in Vietnam. It was one of those must-dos that had to be checked off the list. I kind of love Vietnamese food. Whether it’s pho bo (my all time favourite meal in South East Asia so far), the fried rice pancakes in Hue, or the chili and lemongrass specialities that seem universal in Vietnam, I love them all. My requirements for cooking school were as follow: I needed to learn how to make pho, every other dish was negotiable. Luckily, Red Bridge Cooking School in Hoi An met my very strict requirements.
Little did I know when my friend and I booked it that Red Bridge is one of the most notable cooking schools (for tourists) in Hoi An and likely in Vietnam. Everyone else in our class would likely be labeled “foodie”, we were just beginners attempting to learn some skills. We just happened upon the school in Lonely Planet, figured it looked good and went with it.
Our day started off with a welcome drink at the restaurant and then a quick transfer to the local Hoi An market. The experience at the market was fantastic because it provided ample information on all the fruits and vegetables that you see in South East Asian markets but do not recognize. I also now know how to pick out a good fish, good pork, and other things that I’ve since forgotten apparently. As a side note, if you ever get the chance to try Vietnamese strawberries they are fantastic.
We were also treated to visit to an organic farm just outside Hoi An, to see how the large variety of herbs used in Vietnamese cooking are grown. We were also given this fantastic drink, with Asian Basil seeds. It was absolutely delicious and completely different than anything I’ve tried before.
After the market and the farm, we transferred to the Red Bridge Cooking School facilities that are located on the banks of the river outside. The location was absolutely stunning and the scenery provided inspiration enough to learn about Vietnamese cooking and culture.
We made a total of four dishes. Of course there was the pho bo.
Claypot Fish w/rice noodles
Marinated Chicken with Green Mango Salad and grilled rice tortillas (for lack of a better word)
Grilled Shrimp in Banana Leaves
Each was incredibly delicious, and entirely different from the others. It was a great range of dishes that provided a sampling of the many tastes in Vietnamese cuisine. We were able to take in the scenery, enjoy the swimming pool and stuff ourselves to the point of bursting.
It was overall a fantastic experience. Everyone in our group was amazing. There were lots of laughs at the sometimes ineptness of us would-be chefs. Our teacher-chef was a little too crude with his jokes and it rubbed more than a few people the wrong way. But as the day progressed he became more relaxed and the atmosphere became infinitely better.
I really enjoyed cooking school with the Red Bridge in Hoi An, and would absolutely recommend it to others. If you are looking to commit to less than a full day, they also have half day options. And if you find this one a little on the expensive side, I talked to numerous other travellers who had great experiences at a lot of the other cooking schools in Hoi An.
If you love Vietnamese food as much as I do, make sure you get to a cooking school. My proudest newly acquired skill is that I can make rice noodles from scratch!