For our final day in Hoi An, we signed up for a cooking class with Coconut Fragrance, a home cooking school run by a young woman named Huynh and her chef husband Tuan. There are numerous options for cooking classes in town, but I was very happy with our selection and would wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone looking for a fun activity in Hoi An.
Touring the market
I pre-registered for the class easily by chatting with Tuan and Huynh on Facebook prior to our trip, and they picked us up from our hotel in the morning. We were joined by a small group of travellers from South Korea and Israel, and made our first stop at an incredibly busy local market. While there, Huynh showed us around and we picked up ingredients for class.
Basket boating through the coconut forest
The Coconut Fragrance cooking school is located in an open air kitchen sitting along a canal. We made our way there via basket boat, which was a hilarious experience.
Known as thung chai, the basket boat traces its history to the French colonial era. At the time, the French were levying taxes on everything, including ownership of boats. The local Vietnamese fishermen, who could not afford the taxes but depended on boats for their livelihood, invented this new form of circular boat that looked like a basket. They argued that they were indeed baskets rather than boats, and therefore avoided paying taxes. Basket boats have remained in use ever since then, and continue to be constructed by weaving strips of bamboo together and coating them with waterproof resin – sometimes in the form of cow dung.
We were taken on a spin (literally) in the boats and tried our hand at net fishing.
Then we traversed down a canal lined by coconut forest. Huynh had told us some stories about the history of Vietnam during wartime, including tales of Viet Công soldiers and villagers hiding within the coconut forest to evade capture. We stopped off along the edge to catch tiny little crabs, just for fun, as we released them at the end.
As we exited the coconut forest, we stopped to watch a fisherman throw his net and Mr. Chuckles gave it a try as well. Perhaps he has discovered his new vocation? Woooow!
Cooking up a storm
And finally, it was time to get cooking. Under the guidance of Huynh and chef Tuan, we learned how to prepare several dishes.
Rice milk and rice paper.
Fried spring rolls.
Banh xeo (fried pancakes with pork and shrimp).
Beef pho noodle soup.
All of it was so good and so delicious, as expected. We finished off with fresh fruit from the market, along with banana wrapped in sticky rice and accompanied by mango and toasted coconut.
We were bursting at the seams by the time the class ended. This day was definitely money well spent, about $30 USD per person for everything. The activities and cooking were so much fun, but what really made this experience awesome were the people. We loved hanging out with Huynh and Tuan’s family; they were nice, full of humour, and wonderful representatives of Vietnamese friendliness and hospitality. Cảm ơn!
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