The Market Restaurant and Cookery School, Hoi An, Vietnam
For foodie travellers, the contrast between what we see in the market and what appears on our plate when we visit a restaurant can be poignant and frustrating, especially if we love fruit and vegetables. Not so in Hoi An, Vietnam, where the Market Restaurant allows you to sample a vast range of local dishes and fresh produce of all kinds.
It’s all the idea of a local woman – she calls herself Ms Vy – who also runs three of the town’s best conventional restaurants. The Market Restaurant is a walk around open air food court (with a sliding roof for rainy days) where you watch all the main techniques of Vietnamese cooking demonstrated and then decide what you want to eat. Or you can just gawp. Upstairs there’s a separate seafood restaurant and three training kitchens.
We opted for a half day course that includes a tour of the city’s overflowing market. Our guide helped us identify the less familiar produce such as bitter melons and fresh turmeric and that array of salads and fresh herbs which makes for Vietnamese food’s distinctive appeal. Then, we went back for a cookery class led by Ms Vy herself. This is a very professional operation with well equipped stations for 16 or more people and a band of assistants to help and clear up. We learned to make fresh spring rolls, a soup with prawns wrapped in cabbage, grilled chicken and bang xeo – crispy pancakes filled with prawns, pork, bean sprouts and herbs. And then we ate the lot and bought the school’s cookbook, Taste Vietnam.
It’s what every city needs – a display of local foods and specialities, an opportunity to cook them yourself, or just to choose what you want to eat and to dine informally. But done with supremely good taste and panache.
The Market Cooking School and Restaurant
3 Nguyen Hoang St, Hoi An
Tel: +84 (0) 510 3926 926