After getting a taste for Vietnamese food a few months ago, I was really keen to discover and learn to cook more dishes. So at the weekend, me and Polly headed down to London for a Vietnamese Cooking Class with Uyen Luu. On Sunday afternoon we eagerly arrived for the class at Uyen’s home, which we were warmly welcomed into by her mother, ready to cook up a feast!
Following a brief introduction on the background of Vietnamese food, including the difference between the North and South cuisines, we learned that Vietnamese cooking is all about getting the right balance of hot, sour, sweet, umani, salty and bitter flavours. We then went onto prepare a staggering 12 dishes across the 4 or so hours, feasting on meals typically eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and after dinner snacks. The mix between demonstrations and getting involved was spot on for a relaxed but productive afternoon. During the demonstrations the 8 of us all huddled around the stove as Uyen and her mum showed us how easy it is to create wonderful Vietnamese dishes at home, talking us through each ingredient being used and where to buy it. Whilst the hands on activities reiterated that Vietnamese cooking is not only accessible to any level of cook, but also fun and quick to make.
We kicked off the day by learning how to make and roll own Saigon Fresh Summer Rolls, filling them with prawns, pork belly, rice vermicelli noodles, lettuce, coriander, mint and shiso leaves. It was surprisingly a lot easier than I thought it would be, and actually really fun to do too so would be ideal for an interactive dinner party starter! The end result was a light, fresh and tasty summer roll which we enjoyed with the most delicious peanuty hoisin dip. Even better was that we got to take 2 each home with us as well!
Next it was time to get hands on again and prepare the Lemongrass Beef in Betel Leaves, or Bo La Lot. One person mixed up all herbs and spices into the beef mince and then we each rolled half a dozen or so before popping them in the oven. They were so tasty and easy to make and definitely one of my favourite dishes of the day! We had them alongside the most delicious Chicken and Hot Mint Salad; the combination of flavours was just amazing and it was great scooped up with prawn crackers.
It soon became time for what I had personally been most excited about…the Chicken Noodle Soup! Uyen had made a fresh batch of chicken stock from poaching the chicken that morning for the soup; I’ve never made my own stock (I know how bad!!), but now I always will as it had so much more flavour!
We also had Congee – which is a rice soup typically eaten for breakfast or when you’re not very well – that was really tasty, especially with the addition of fish cakes too.
Onto a street food favourite with Sizzling Crepes. We each had a go at making one ourselves by frying raw King prawns in a hot pan before adding the batter, a handful of beansprouts and spring onions, and topping with a lid whilst it cooked away for a few mintues. But the real challenge came when it was time to try flipping the crepe in half and maneuvering it onto the plate…luckily no one’s ended up on the floor though! We ate it by breaking it up, wrapping it in lettuce leaves and dipping into a sauce.
After indulging on several dishes it was time for a break to stretch our legs and walk off some of the food. Uyen took us to her local Vietnamese supermarket and showed us which brands of some Vietnamese ingredients to buy. I picked up some sweet potato noodles, vermicelli rice noodles and rice paper wraps to recreate the summer rolls, hoisin sauce, and the only fish sauce you should ever buy!
We got back to the house just in time for ‘dinner’ which was laid on the table to be shared between the 8 of us so that we could help ourselves, and I loved this relaxed way of eating. The Braised Pork Belly in Coconut and Pear Cider had been cooked earlier on by one member of the group, then left to simmer away for 2 hours until the pork was melt in the mouth tender. The stew wasn’t heavy at all too, but it was still bursting with flavour!
We also feasted on a wonderfully aromatic Baked Seabass With Spring Onions & Soy Sauce, heavenly Aubergines in Soy Sauce, and crunchy, tasty Stir Fried Morning Glory.
For dessert Uyen made Banana Fritters which went down really well with all of the group but I couldn’t try as I hate bananas. However my sweet tooth was satisfied with an extra surprise dessert of Blueberry Ice Cream Cake which was lush!
We all stopped on afterwards to chat to Uyen about her exciting foodie past and plans for the future! Everyone in the group decided to buy Uyen’s cookbook too (so we could recreate all of her amazing recipes!) which she also personally signed for us all, and it was a lovely touch to the end of a great day.
I had an absolutely fantastic day at Uyen Luu’s Vietnamese Cooking Class! I felt that it was great value for money at £95 for the amount we cooked, ate and learnt over the course of the day. Although we feasted on a dozen dishes, they were all so light and fresh that we left happily full and satisfied rather than overfull and rolling out of the door. Uyen was so friendly and welcoming too; she went at a great pace, explaining everything really clearly with detail and enthusiasm, whilst also keeping us entertained too. The class has ignited a love for Vietnamese food and I’m now desperate to go travelling in Vietnam too!
I highly recommend booking onto a class soon and joining Uyen and her mum as they take you through a delicious Vietnamese journey! For more information on how to book onto one of Uyen’s cooking classes head to her website here for upcoming dates. Uyen also runs supperclubs on Friday and Saturday nights and I’m really keen to get back down to London for one soon; you can also book onto one of these on her website here too.