Hanoi Cooking Centre, Part One: To Market!

May 18, 2011

I must apologise for my disjointed travel posts. I have been trying to weave them in with my at home posts, however I fear this has not been very successful. I do so wish to blend my daily life with my travel adventures (plus a little sprinkling of eating out here and there). I have so many travel tales to tell you! Bear with me as I find my feet in this regard.

And so here we go, back to Vietnam

We had two full days in Hanoi. One was spent exploring the town at a beautifully leisurely pace, and delighting in our very first bowl of Bun Cha. That day was perfect. I shall tell you about that day in the future.

Our other day in Hoi An was spent at museums….well, that was our intention. Actually at the last minute we found a Trip Advisor review for Hanoi Cooking Centre. And then we saw more reviews – raves, rather. Suddenly our plans changed. Cooking class trumps museums, right?

We signed up for the Vietnamese Street Food class. It was just Ben and I, plus two fellow hungry participants (a friendly couple from California), in the class – lovely and intimate. Bright and early we turned up, excited to learn, cook and eat!

The first part of our class involved a tour of Cho Chau Long Market. That is Ben in the picture below, and not some super keen random person. Although it would have been brilliant if that were the case.

Tracey Lister, the lady behind Hanoi Cooking Centre, was our guide, and what a fabulous wealth of knowledge she is. We soaked up every educated and fascinating word she spoke. Tracey is a revered Australian Chef who now calls Hanoi home. She was the first chef/trainer at KOTO, a charity that provides street kids with vocational training (it’s a fantastic organisation).

This was a great local market, no tourists here… besides us 🙂 Other tour groups do pass through here also, but luckily on this morning we were the only ones. Tracey took us right around the market, showing us a whole range of exotic foods. It was such a feast for the eyes!

Bánh chưng – it was coming up to Tết, when this glutinous rice cake is traditional made and eaten.

Betel Nut – a mild narcotic that is culturally important, both in the chewing, giving and receiving of the plant. You’ll often find old ladies chewing it in South East Asian countries. It’s addictive, slightly carcinogenic and can stain your teeth – fascinating!

Meat Market! No dog today though. Tracey informs us that this meat is super super fresh, i.e. just killed this morning – squirmish, yes, but also respect for the freshness of their produce.

Steamed Pigs Blood – I’ve never tried this…and I don’t know if I ever will. Something about steamed blood always freaks me out. I wonder why…oh that’s right, because it’s freaky! No, no, just kidding – I don’t mean any disrespect. It’s just something that I have never ever seen before, nor grown up with. I love to try new things, so perhaps I should give this a go…

Insides…outside. All coiled and on display, ready for purchasing.

Banana Flower – another new ingredient to me, it’s fantastic thinly sliced in salads.

An array of all sorts of weird and wonderful fish pastes!

Loads of fresh seafood, eels and all. Tracey picked little lost, limp fish up off the ground and popped them back in the water. How sweet of her. We all looked on in amusement/shock. I love this place. Certainly different from our decidedly controlled, tame markets back home.

Fresh eggs.

I’m not sure what this is…any ideas?
* edit: many of you had wonderful, ideas, as it were! You have identified this to be pickled bamboo shoots, thank you so much for your help!

After overloading our senses we left the market and headed back to the cooking school. We were bursting to start cooking, the market tour left the four of us positively buzzing and inspired! Next up, Part Two: In the Kitchen

Heidi xo

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  • Lisa (bakebikeblog) May 18, 2011 at 8:20 am

    How wonderful! I love exploring markets in new countries!

  • flying carpet May 18, 2011 at 8:37 am

    I went to Vietnam just after you did – have loved reading your posts as your trip mirrored a lot of what we did. Vietnamese food markets are the best!
    Is the last pic bamboo shoots?

  • Natalie Marie May 18, 2011 at 9:00 am

    My boyfriend and I want to gotot Vietnam in the next couple years. His family is from there. I am so excited I found your blog today! I look forward to going back and reading your older post! I would love for you to check out my blog and tell me what you think! I'm also having a giveaway you might like. I look forward to getting to know you through this crazy blog worl!!

    Thank you


  • Poptartlr May 18, 2011 at 9:54 am

    That looks amazing. I am going to Vietnam at the end of the year, and I am a bit concerned about whether I will find anything to eat, as I am a vego!

  • Heidi May 18, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Lisa – me too!

    Flying Carpet – I'm not sure? I've only ever seen thin and crunchy bamboo shoots. Hopefully someone will know for sure, and we can find out! Thanks for the comment 🙂

    Natalie – how lovely, I will definitely check your blog out. I hope you get to go to Vietnam soon!

    Poptartlr – yes, a lot of the broths at street stalls will be meat-based. You'll be able to find veg options in restaurants easily though! I'm seeing my vego friend tonight who has been to Vietnam twice – I'll ask her!

    Heidi xo

  • wikigirl May 18, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Loving your Vietnam posts! It's making my travel bug get worse 🙁 I'm trying to convince C that our next trip should be there. Would love to explore local food markets + do a cooking class. Not too sure I would like the pig's blood either…

  • Hannah May 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Bomboo! Is it bamboo? Please tell me if it [the shaved orange cone thingies] is, I'll feel so very clever. If not, don't tell me… 😛

  • Heidi May 18, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    wikigirl – good to know I'm not alone 😛 Yes you'd love Vietnam, so much to explore!

    Hannah – well that is two votes for bamboo! You may indeed be correct. & if it's not you're still very clever – you're writing that book and everything! please do write the book, I would so love that 🙂 If it's not a self-help book, I do see some sort of book in your future. Something fabulous, of course.

    Heidi xo

  • Blithely Unaware May 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Yayayayaa they use Banana Flower in the duck rice paper rolls at Miss Chu… not really sure there is much in there but they like to claim it on the menu and they are so delicious I don't mind.

    I'm guessing that ish is either Bamboo or Taro… no idea.


  • Adrian in Food Rehab May 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Totally diggin your travel posts- keep em coming! Best thing about the markets overseas is seeing the array of seafood often with many of the varieties not available in our shores.

  • chutneyandspice May 18, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Wow that looks so fascinating, what a wonderful market experience. My favourites were the eels and the plant that the old ladies chew. I agree with you that markets can be too controlled and tame, ours over here are beautiful but don't really show the food in its most basic state. I wondered if the unknown shot was pickled ginger, but it looks like it could be too big for that? Thanks for a lovely start to a wet day Heidi.

  • deb May 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    hi Heidi, i'm pretty sure it's pickled bamboo shoots. They're in many of the grocery shops in Footscray and other Asian shopping areas i would assume. The animal innards are full on. I see them in the butchers near me, and a lot of it looks quite challenging to eat!

  • The InTolerant Chef May 18, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Positively bamboo shoots. I get them looking like this from my asian grocer.
    I would love a class like this, in a real market with real ingredients and real people.
    Glad you had fun!

  • Iron Chef Shellie May 18, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    errr the steam pigs blood can stay where it is… no thanks! x

  • msihua May 18, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    What a wonderful idea! I love going to markets in different countries. You learn so much!

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella May 18, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    Oh we tried the betel nut and I have to say that it was awful! I can't believe people become addicted to it lol

  • Heidi May 19, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Blithely Unaware – gah! I still haven't been there – need to.

    Adrian – thank you! 🙂 & yes, so much new and different seafood – amazing to see!

    chutneyandspice – how lovely, you're welcome – thanks for the sweet comment 🙂

    deb – haha, a challenge indeed! Thank you so much for identifying the pickled bamboo shoots!

    InTolerant Chef – it was wonderful! Thanks for the confirmation too 🙂

    Michele – haha, so it's really not just me 😛

    Msihua – don't you just?! 🙂

    Lorraine – really? haha, I'm not surprised!

    Heidi xo

  • Anna Johnston May 19, 2011 at 7:33 am

    Yep, bamboo shoots for sure. Owhhh, I can't wait to wander these streets one day soon. Everytime you post a travel post I get transported & there's a lot of googling going on 🙂

  • Kath (My Funny Little Life) May 21, 2011 at 2:46 am

    I wish we had markets like that in Germany! 😀 I was to a traditional food market in Tunesia a few years ago, but I didn't buy anything but a few oranges because we were staying in a hotel and had no possibility to cook something. (The food in the hotel was mediocre, btw. I'd rather have cooked something by myself with fresh things from the market!)

  • Heidi May 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Anna – yay!!! thanks for the bamboo shoots confirmation too 🙂 can't wait til you get to go!

    Kath – oooh Tunisia, that sounds really interesting place to visit, my friend has been there. Add it to the list 🙂

    Heidi xo