Please note that since writing this blog post, My’s Vietnamese cookery workshops are no longer running.
No one knows how to pronounce it.
After a round of Proseccos and an introduction by My, the class of 12 were divided into pairs and each given a dish to work on. Let me mention at this point that my cooking date for the evening was Shoshannah from Awesome Amsterdam, who – for those who’ve never met her – is an effervescent little saucepot of a 5-foot-nothing Calfornian. Things were always going to get feisty pretty quickly, and of course we were the first pair to pipe up with which dish we wanted to prepare. Opting not to fight over who would get to make the pho, we plumped for the Vietnamese roasted chicken.
Our drumsticks needed a marinade of soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and chilli, and our red onions needed chopping. But once that was done and we’d nosed around other people’s cooking stations to figure out what they were up to, the devil found work for idle hands, as it were. Needless to say, we’d raided the liquor tray within half an hour, and were busy improvising caipirinhas for the entire class shortly afterwards. (Being careful, of course, not to use the lime and mint that were reserved for the dishes. Hmm… sorry.)
Slightly tipsy by this point, we fried off our chicken pieces and put them in the oven, along with some chicken and vegetable skewers that our classmates had made. Just before the end, I brushed the former with a delicious honey-vinegar combo – but it really was as quick and simple as that. Meanwhile, we attempted to help the others out by making a few spring rolls (there were two varieties: prawn and mango fresh rolls, and tofu-vege fried rolls) but I fear we may have been more hindrance than help.
The piece de resistance, however, was the pho itself. Due to the length of time needed to boil the oxtail pieces and simmer the resulting stock with various toasted spices, the broth took the longest out of any of the dishes – but the result was worth the wait. We ate our pho with beef, noodles, beansprouts, herbs, chillies and (the crucial ingredient) plenty of fish sauce. But the great thing about pho is you can make it as hot, sour, salty or fragrant as your taste buds can bear.
Dinner was a veritable feast with five different dishes on offer, which made up for the fact that we only got to make one or two of them. At €56 per person, one thing I’d caution: go to eat, go to have fun, but don’t go expecting to come home having learned how to make multiple complex dishes. Yes, you’ll get the recipes afterwards, but time and space dictate that you won’t get involved in making everything yourself. Plus, the principle of the lowest common denominator means that experienced cooks may not feel challenged.
With these caveats, I’d highly recommend signing up to take one of these Vietnamese cookery workshops; My is a fun, personable teacher who clearly loves her native food. Plus, she didn’t get mad at us for drinking all the rum – bonus!