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Before even arriving in Vietnam I already knew I loved summer rolls. Fresh veggies, noodles and meat or shrimp all bundled in a rice paper wrapper to be dipped in a fish sauce based dipping sauce = perfection. So when I found the Hanoi Cooking Centre as being top rated cooking class on trip advisor AND offering spring roll themed cooking classes, I booked a class without hesitation.
Another solo cooking class outing for me (Dave spent the afternoon napping in the hotel). I hopped in a cab and a $2 ride across the city later I was there.
I was greeted by a friendly host and led into the courtyard for a cup of tea before the class started where I noticed that the charming building doubles as both a restaurant and a cooking school. With only one other couple in attendance we had an intimate cooking group.
Our young Vietnamese chef Lin, started with an introduction into the class, the types of spring rolls we would be making, and their differences. With essentially limitless filling ingredients and opportunities, we would be creating four spring rolls along with a dipping sauce.
After first watching Lin demonstrate how to cut the ingredients and assemble the rolls we set off to work. We started with the pork and crab spring rolls, with quite the extensive list of ingredients and slowly put them together to make the perfect, round shape. Surprisingly, we only lightly dampened the rice paper with water – simply using our fingers instead of running hot water over the rice paper as I had done before in the US.
This way was significantly easier and less time consuming. We carefully fried our spring rolls all together and set them aside to be fried a second time right before eating (this is the secret to the ubber crispy rolls).
From there we made the seafood rolls – more of a fusion of Vietnamese and French cuisine with the addition of mayonnaise and bread crumbs. The rice paper we used for these was machine made and you could tell as you couldn’t see the imprint of the bamboo drying racks on the rice paper itself. This rice paper seemed even thinner and smoother than the traditional rice paper and we set aside the rolls for frying later.
From there we went on to make my favorite of them all – the lacy spring rolls with tuna. This rice paper was unlike any other I had seen before. It was “lacy” – slightly resembling the pattern that funnel cake batter makes in the pan, except thinner and more delicate of course.
These rolls particularly intrigued me – tuna, carrot, shallots, fresh herbs and these magical looking rice paper wrapper? A match made in heaven I tell you. We lightly pan fried them in a dash of oil just to get the tuna cooked through.
Finishing up the spring roll saga – the Hue spring rolls. These were served fresh, in bite sized sections with a sprinkling of pickled prawns and pork on top.
And then of course there was the dipping sauce. A simple set of ingredients – fish sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic and chili whisked together becomes the perfect accompaniment to the spring rolls themselves.
Before we sat down to enjoy the spring roll feast we had created we headed over to the market. Since our class started in the afternoon the market was closed for break time but luckily by the time we were done cooking it was up and running again.
Lin took us around pointing out various vegetables, noodles, sauces and meat. He showed us the different fish sauces, explaining how they differ and which ones are considered the best (the first pressed ones). We watched the vendors carrying on their business without even noticing Lin picking up produce here and there to let us smell the fresh earthy herbs or marvel at the size and shape of some of the veggies. Luckily there were no cats or dogs this time.
On our way back to the cooking school we passed by a lady selling jackfruit and Lin bought some for all of us to try, as I had mentioned that I have never seen this fruit prior to our trip to Vietnam.
With jackfruit as an appetizer and four courses of spring rolls to follow, dinner was a feast and we enjoyed it in the charming setting of the second floor cafe area. After two glass of beer (included in the class) to wash it all down I was stuffed.
Each spring roll was unlike the rest and a combination between traditional recipes and flavors with eclectic fusion cuisine. While the other couple shared their meal, I ate double in Dave’s absence.
Overall I enjoyed my cooking class with Lin from Hanoi Cooking Centre and would recommend it to those interested in learning more about Vietnamese food. We emailed several cooking classes but ultimately went with Hanoi Cooking Centre on account of its high rating on Trip Advisor. If springs rolls don’t interest you there are also street food cooking classes, barbeque, vegan, and even street food tours. Guess I’ll have to save those for next time.
Note: In exchange for this review we received a partial discount, however, all views expressed are entirely our own.