Vietnamese food in my opinion is one of the tastiest types of Asian food, so it was a no brainer to partake in a cookery class during our time in Vietnam earlier this year. We travelled throughout the country and found that most places we visited offered cookery classes, however I opted to book this one to coincide with our stay in Hoi An, the food capital of Vietnam. Adam is a massive foodie (and my personal chef at home), so for his birthday I arranged for us to join a private cookery class. There are many popular companies offering cookery classes in Hoi An, such as Redbridge, and Morning Glory, however I really wanted a private class that allowed us to cook a menu of our choice. And that’s how we ended up at Gioan Cookery!
I came across Gioan Cookery via a friend’s recommendation (thanks Nicole!), and couldn’t have been more pleased with our experience. From start to finish, this was one of the best parts of our trip to Vietnam! I had emailed in advance to check availability and some other details, and on every occasion I received a swift, clear, and friendly response from either Vina or Hanh who host the classes. Booking our class was super easy, and the ladies reconfirmed the day before for ease.
Tucked up a small road just off Ly Thuong Kiet Street, Gioan’s Cookery School is run from their family house, just a 5 minute cycle from the heart of the old town. A one way pick up is offered, but you’ll be best to arrive by bicycle as you’ll need it to head to the market anyway. Set behind two large black gates, the front of the property had a large patio area to leave your bikes. The inside of the sunshine yellow house was large and airy with two good size cooking stations, each with a preparation table and eating table, so Hanh and Vina can run two classes simultaneously.
Included in your class is a visit to the local Tiger Market, a bottle of water, soft drink or beer, and a handy recipe print out of your chosen menu so you can recreate your yummy treats once you get home!
There was a choice of two set menus, a vegetarian menu, or you had the option to choose 4 items from a list of 27 different items to create your own menu, which is what we did. All of the above were priced at $40 pp and the class should take a maximum of 2.5 hours (although we were there just over 3 hours!). Classes run every half an hour from 08:00 until 19:00, but remember you’ll get to eat your goodies once your class is finished, so you’ll be wise to time your class to finish around lunchtime or dinnertime. Although it’s not listed on their website, on the day we were given an additional menu that also gave us the option to cook slightly less (3 items) or slightly more (5 items) if we preferred.
It’s also worth noting that if you are a solo visitor then the price will bumped up to $70pp, so you might want to come along with someone else to keep costs down. Something else to consider is that the market closes at 17:30, so if you book a later class you’ll have to skip the market visit which would be a massive shame as I really enjoyed that part of our morning.
Click here to take a look on Gioan’s website to see the full menu choices.
We arrived for our 09:30 am class to be greeted by an extremely cheerful Vina who was a heap of fun. I’m smiling now just thinking of her cheery face 🙂 With Vina’s help, we carefully chose what we’d be cooking in our class. We decided to cook a Pho Ga (chicken), Tempura Prawns, Lemongrass & Chilli Prawns, and a Vietnamese Pancake (which we were assured is not like a regular pancake!). We grabbed our bikes and headed straight out to the market, cycling down several small narrow pathways with Vina tinkling her bicycle bell along the way to make sure she didn’t lose us.
Vina walked us through the market, pointing and poking at different things, whilst explaining what everything was and how it was used during cooking. At the market, we bought fresh ingredients that we would later cook with. This was your typical local produce market heaving with people jostling to get past one another, shouting their orders, and exchanging their crumpled dong for meat guts and herbs.
Chicken necks were on our shopping list for our Pho Ga as they have high collagen content (along with chicken feet), making them strangely one of the best parts of a chicken to use to make your broth. Any of my close friends will be able to picture my face as Vina happily chatted amongst the dead chickens! Eek! Thankfully, everything else we bought was pretty normal. I loved how Vina showed us everything we bought, explained why it’s used, and where it came from. Vina visits the market around three times per day and always buys her ingredients from the same people, so it was no bother for her to pick up items and show us everything that was for sale on each stall.
Green oranges, giant cucumbers, loads of different types of melons, the freshest lemon basil, mint, and coriander you’ve ever smelt. There was of course some gross stuff for sale such as meat offal, half dead fish who were still flapping around, and various miscellaneous things that we weren’t too sure what they were.
Once we were back at the house, Vina headed to the main kitchen to prepare our ingredient. She came back with a trolley full of small bowls and plates, along with our fresh chicken and prawns. On the table there was a basket of 101 spices and seasonings that we would use throughout our class. Vina patiently talked us through each course one by one. The print out recipe guide we were given earlier actually had a step by step guide on how to prepare everything, so this was super easy to follow. Vina explained everything as we went along, and also cheekily questioned us throughout the class to double check we were listening to what she was saying. Adam and I were able to alternate between marinating the meat, chopping, crushing, and cooking on the hob to ensure we both got to experience everything together.
And here we have our finished menu – the freshest Pho I’ve tasted yet (despite knowing the chicken necks were in there), the yummiest tempura prawns (which were coated in a mix of lemongrass, cinnamon and other spices too), prawns marinated in our own homemade lemongrass and chili sauce, and a Vietnamese pancake made from turmeric, flour, and water, topped with three teeny tiny Quail eggs.