We spent the morning with the Vietnam Cookery Center. We started in the market where they identified all the food products for sale. It turns out that other markets we had visited were pretty smelly and the reason was that we were there later in the day. At 8:30 you can walk down the fish aisle and if you close your eyes you wouldn’t know it since the fish are still swimming in large bowls or only recently killed. It was totally different are we learned to distinguish male from female crabs. It’s simple, the females are larger and on the underside they have a visible area for their ovaries. There were 3 other people in our class, a couple and friend of theirs from Australia. The man in the couple has worked for the government for his whole career and at 53 takes up to 10 weeks vacation. Our jaws dropped.
The lesson was very well organized with all the ingredients chopped in little bowls so we could proceed quickly. The chef demonstrated, a young woman translated and we all cooked for ourselves. The dishes were a salad, caramel fish and sweet and sour soup. I think Jack appreciated the opportunity to cook rather than simply do dishes. I have the recipes and will definitely make them when I get home. I also have the t-shirt and the apron and as we all know, this will improve the quality of the food. Everyone “passed” so we all graduated and received certificates in a well photographed graduation ceremony. Another benefit of the class was that I found there was one ingredient commonly used in Vietnamese food that I didn’t like. Now I know it is pandan leaves so I can avoid this and my enjoyment of Vietnamese food will go up a notch.
After class, Jack went back to the hotel to do photography things and I went walking. This is a city of contrasts. Within 4 blocks you have Louis Vuitton and people sitting on the sidewalk picking bugs out of each other’s hair. It is also a city that is getting into the Christmas spirit. Our hotel has numerous gingerbread houses, Christmas trees and inflated Santa on their lawn. Only 10% of the country’s population is Christian, but they are pretty much in the south and trust me the Vietnamese are not likely to miss a retail opportunity if they can help it. Saigon as a chain like Starbucks and they are everywhere. I hadn’t had a real Vietnamese coffee so I stopped for one along the way. I ended up back at the main market and simply couldn’t take the buy something lady so I headed back to the hotel to write my blog before we head back to the tailor at 6.
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