Red Bridge Cooking Class – Deluxe Day Tour

4 May 2011
by Phuoc

Besides getting clothes tailor made in Hoi An, there was another thing that we had to do in Hoi An and that was to do a cooking class. There are a few options available but in the end we chose Red Bridge Cooking School as it looked the most professional and had the most positive reviews. From the 3 available class options, we decided to do the Delxue Full Day Tour which only costs US$43 per person. The class is conducted in English, apparently operates everyday of the year and the maximum class size is 8 people.

The 7 hour class starts off with a welcome drink at a cafe, you are then taken to an organic farm to see the local farmers work to supply various greenery and herbs to restaurants, cafes and markets. Before arriving to Red Bridge Cooking School (which also has a restaurant serving lunch and dinner daily by special request), we stopped over to the local markets to shop for some of the ingredients we’ll be using during the class; this also gave us a chance to have a glimpse at the hustle and bustle of the markets which are open every single day for the locals.

Ant and I really enjoyed the cooking class. We were so full by the end of it and our chef and guide, Phi, made the entire class very entertaining and his jokes and advice were quite funny eg if you get chilli in your eyes, apparently to “treat” it, you grab some hair and brush the ends of it into the affected eye! I’m not too sure if it’s actually true but it was hilarious to see one of the guys do it.

So the day started at 8am, we meet at Hai Cafe for our welcome drink. We both had a coffee each; I’m a cà phê sữa đá (iced milk coffee) girl whilst Ant likes his coffee hot and without milk (cà phê đen nóng).We spent about half an hour here as one group was running a little late, but that was ok as it allowed me to check out the rest of the cafe before we started. I really loved the relaxed atmosphere and charming decor of this cafe; we even went back to the cafe in the afternoon to escape the hot sun with a cool drink. I can’t vouch for what the food would be like here but seeing some of the options on the blackboard near the BBQ in the courtyard did tempt me. Will need to check it out the next time we go back..

Hai Cafe

There are two entrances to this restaurant.

Addresses: 98 Nguyễn Thái Học & 111 Trần Phú, Hội An

Telephone: (+84) (0510) 386 3210

Mobile: 0905452092

www.visithoian.com/haicafe

After the welcome drinks, we were taken to Tra Que Organic Village by a minivan. Tra Que Organic Village is an organic farm located about 10 minutes from Hoi An. Here the farmers use traditional methods of growing and harvesting many herbs, vegetables and greenery; all which is done without any form of machinery what so ever. The farmers here earn their income through supplying their produce to restaurants and cafes, and also through the tourism that come through here (we were encouraged to give a tip if we were to volunteer watering the plants).

The size of the farm was massive and everyday, starting early in the morning, the farmers would water each plant manually by carrying two heavy water cans back and forth the well and up and down the rows of plants. I decided to give this a go. Normally each can would fill up about 5L (5 quarts) of water but it obviously wasn’t filled up that much for me, just in case it was a little too heavy. It was quite straight forward, swing the cans back and forth so you get an evenly distributed spray of water and keep walking forward. As you can see in the picture above, I had my right hand tilted down way too much so by the time that can was empty, the other one was still going so I had obviously missed a spot! Whoops!

So what do you think? Does the farmer look suit me?

Before we set off to the markets, we were provided a refreshing drink of ginger syrup-infused water with basil seeds. The basil seeds look a little like tadpole eggs so Phi jokingly freaked out some people out by saying we were having a tadpole egg drink! Although I’m not a big fan of ginger, I did quite enjoy this drink as the ginger flavour was very subtle and the textures of the basil seeds made the drink very interesting (think: slight chewy texture of tapioca pears with a crunch in the centre). I think I need to make this drink when the season gets warmer.

After the refreshing drink we were on our way back to the local markets to shop around for ingredients for the class. This shot was taken shortly after we exited the farm. There was a dirt pathway leading to the main road and to my left was this! Simply spectacular hey?

Like all local markets throughout Vietnam, there’s a lot of commotion and a variety of items for sale. There were sections for fresh fruit and vegetables, greenery and herbs, spices and condiments, noodles, seafood, poultry and red meats. Everything is laid out in front of you and from the look of things, the produce is as fresh as it can be. The locals would squeeze their motorbikes/bicycles through the narrow walkways, pull over at a stall and quickly purchase something before hopping off to the next stall for something else.

We arrived at the cooking school and couldn’t believe how amazing everything was! Dining table near the inviting pool. Palm trees dotted around luscious greenery provided welcoming shade. River along the edge of the premise. And deck chairs so you can laze around after all the hard work you’ve done. There’s a long bench in the centre of the class, lined with chopping boards, knives, gas burners, steamers and ingredients. We also had 2 assistants helping us with the clean up so that made everything run smoothly and efficiently; now where can I get one to bring back home?

We were told that drinks (besides wine and spirits) were on the house. You could imagine the sheer amount of joy that brought to our group. But this was a little dangerous too because by the time we got to the cooking school, it was very hot and the only way to solve this was to hit back a few drinks to get one re-hydrated again. I think I downed two 500mL bottles of Biere Larue in a matter of moments, all on an empty stomach mind you but it went down so smoothly without any bitterness. I was feeling a little tipsy during the class because of this but I’m glad that I wasn’t the only one because pretty much everyone was feeling the same!

Cheers to that!

There were 9 of us in this class this day and we soon found out later that we were all Aussies. Brilliant! Everyone was easy going and genuinely wanted to learn about Vietnamese cuisine. Our cooking class sets out to make 4 Vietnamese dishes; Phở bò (beef noodle soup), lemongrass prawns wrapped in banana leaf, clay pot fish with dill and turmeric and grilled chicken and banana flower salad. The class did not seem rushed at all, it was pretty much all hands on; tasks were shared amongst everyone if the job was too big or to ensure everyone played a part in making the dish.

I was quite impressed to find out that we were actually going to learn how to make the rice noodles for our Phở from scratch! A batter of rice was made by soaking rice grains in water overnight and grinding this mixture until a smooth thin batter forms. A  ladleful of this batter was then poured and smoothed out thinly over a muslin cloth that has been draped tightly over a pot of boiling water. It is steamed for a minute and then peeled off with a bamboo stick and lightly oiled. Once we have two rice sheets, they were cut into thin strips for our noodles.

We also learnt how to make the Phở broth. Beef bones, onions, shallots and pieces of ginger were grilled on the BBQ for a few minutes before they were plunged into a pot of water and left to simmer for a minimum of an hour, skimming any fat or scum that rose to the surface regularly. The broth was cooked on top of the BBQ whilst we continued on preparing the other dishes. When the broth was about done, we got to put our Phở together. Our noodles and bean sprouts were quickly blanched in the boiling broth, we topped the noodles with thinly sliced pieces of beef and fried shallots, then the piping hot broth was poured over the top and we were allowed to enjoy our bowl of Phở by the pool.

There’s nothing more satisfying than making your own Phở besides gobbling it all up of course. This is the first bowl of Phở I’ve ever made! The broth wasn’t as meaty as I’m used to but it was still good, it was more of a light and fragrant beef broth. I understand that we couldn’t cook this broth for longer due to time constraints of the class but if one was to make this at home then definitely cook the broth for about 4 hours (obviously the longer the better).

A simple dish to whip up for a BBQ is this dish of lemongrass prawn wrapped in banana leaf. Using a mortar and pestle, we pounded a mixture of lemongrass, shallots, garlic and chilli until grounded, oil was added to make a paste. The prawns were coated with this paste and then wrapped up in banana leaf to create a little parcel which was grilled on the BBQ for about 7 minutes on each side.

These prawns were simply served with a lime, salt and pepper dipping sauce and were so tender and flavoursome.

Everyone was assigned a vegetable to shred up or tasks to prepare the chicken for the grilled chicken and bamboo flower salad. The vegetables featuring in this salad include banana flower, green papaya, green mango, carrot, water spinach and chilli. Earlier on during the day, Phi promised us to introduce us to Edward Chopstick-hands which we found out to be his alter ago. With three pairs of chopsticks in 2 hands, he tossed the shredded vegetables and dressing with precision and speed.

We were instructed to take our dish over to the restaurant to enjoy it and relax with more drinks. I think we all were starting to feel quite full at this point and couldn’t believe the generous serving of this salad! The chicken was cooked beautifully and salad was served with toasted rice paper which was fragrant and nutty and provided additional crunch.

The last dish we prepared was clay pot fish with dill and turmeric. Freshly ground turmeric coated chunks of fish which were grilled on the BBQ and then placed in a clay pot with a fish sauce broth, chilli, shallots, peanuts and dill and cooked until broth has reduced further.

I love cooking with a clay pot, it gives dishes an additional earthiness to it. It is a fantastic way to make caramelised meat dishes as it retains the moisture and keeps meats tender. The fish was exactly that, tender and succulent and jammed packed with flavour and it was served with rice vermicelli noodles to provide something to soothe the dominate the strong turmeric and dill flavours. And although there wasn’t that much food, we sadly couldn’t finish our meal (possibly due to the sheer amount of alcohol we had consumed which made us feel bloated for the entire evening).

After our scrumptious and filling lunch, we make our way over to the pool to relax or have a swim. What a perfect backdrop for a cooking class that didn’t cost an arm or a leg. We get to rest for about half an hour before we are then taken back to the Old Town by boat.

I’d definitely recommend those who are visiting Hoi An and want to do a cooking class to check out Red Bridge; they also have morning half day & short evening classes.

Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School

Address: Thon 4, Cẩm Thanh, Hội An

Telephone: (+84) (0510) 393 3222

Mobile: 0905452092

www.visithoian.com/redbridge/

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29 Comments

  1. Richard Elliot

    I’m loving your Vietnam posts Phouc. Making notes of all the good ideas for my – hoped for – trip.

  2. Emily@NeedsMoreSugar

    I adored Hoi An. I can’t wait to go back.

    We actually went to this same restaurant, but only sat and enjoyed a beer (also a ridiculously hot day), but we saw them setting up for the classes.

    Gorgeous photos too!

  3. Polly Scott

    Yummy!! I love traveling and eating! Or rather I love traveling to eat! Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you!

  4. betty

    wow! looks like so much fun :) thanks for the idea on going to a cooking class in vietnam i might do that later this yr when i go

  5. john@heneedsfood

    Go farmer Phuoc! I’d love to do a cooking class like this one day, and it’s so cheap!

  6. anhsfoodblog

    the pics of you in the farm is PRICELESS!!!

  7. MissPiggy

    Edward Chopstick Hands – love it! So….looks like you’ll be having us all over for a dinner party featuring all of these new dishes you made…I like the sound of that chicken salad.

  8. Isis-Rae

    I love that picture of you watering the grass :)

  9. nic@diningwithastud

    All the food looks amazing. The pool looks pretty shmick too ;)

  10. Mark @ Cafe Campana

    What a great cooking school and at a really good price. I think your photos really captured the spirit of the village and the food.

  11. Linda

    Great post, Phoc! Viet Nam is such a beautiful place and I enjoy seeing happy pictures of her people, and all of the colorful, fresh food. Thanks for sharing.

  12. chopinandmysaucepan

    What a fantastic post. I love going to these wet markets and the cooking class seems like a ball especially when everyone’s had a few drinks!! You definitely have a smile on your face :)

  13. Tina@foodboozeshoes

    Looks like such an amazing day! Love it all: the farmer look, pho, the markets!
    I wanted to do a cooking class when I was in Hanoi, but didn’t have the time – but I doubt it would have been as amazing as your one anyway!

  14. Phuoc

    Richard Elliot: Thanks! I love writing about them and it makes me happy that others are also enjoying them too :)

    Emily: Hoi An is the best! We wished we stayed their longer; I can’t wait to go back too, to have all the Cao Lau I can possibly have!

    Polly Scott: Thank you. I love travelling to eat too. One of the first things I do is research what the specialty dishes are and must try eateries to go to :)

    Betty: Not a problem! Have fun :)

    John: It’s so ridiculously cheap but you learn alot and have so much fun at the same time too!

    Anh: HAHA I look so asian…

    MissPiggy: That chicken salad is the easiest thing to make and it’s super tasty too!

    Isis-Rae: Thanks dear! Minus the watch, sunnies and necklace, I think I can look the part :)

    Nic: This is what I want my future house to look like. It would be magical!

    Mark: Thank you :)

    Linda: Thank you. I really love showing off the true beauty of this country.

    Chopinandmysaucepan: Cooking classes are really fun when everyone is out to learn and just enjoy the moment. We were lucky that our group was so out-going; that’s Aussies for you!

    Tina: I’ve actually seen some classes on offer in Hanoi and was keen if we had time to try them out. The beauty of Vietnamese food is that there are regional dishes that one city might have that another might not or one dish might be presented different eg the belovered national dish, Pho. So it would’ve been worth looking into doing a class in different cities because of this diversity :)

  15. muppy

    This looks like and amazing experience!!! i am so jealous :)

  16. Julia @ Mélanger

    $43 p.p. That’s it? What an amazing day. My husband would go crazy for this – making Vietnamese food is his absolute favourite. I’d love to take a trip there one day soon. Will have to send my husband this post. Maybe we’ll get there sooner rather than later! :)

  17. Christine

    beautiful photos! that cooking class looks great.. i had no idea pho was so simple to make! I really want that chicken salad recipe.. pretty awesome you learned how to make rice noodles from scratch! i had no idea how it was done until now..

  18. Peter G @ Souvlaki For The Soul

    Phuoc…this whole experience looks and sounds amazing!!!!! I am so envious…and I def dig the “farmer” look! Thank you for sharing and I have bookmarked the details in case I head over there in the near future!

  19. mademoiselle délicieuse

    Rockin’ the farmer look! Waiting for you to do a blog post about making pho now =D

  20. Sara @ Belly Rumbles

    I am in shock of the cost, you sure that wasn’t a typo? What a wonderful experience, that is including the tipsy cooking :)

  21. Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets

    Wow what an incredible experience. Wish I could do something like that one day!

  22. angie

    Looks like an absolutely awesome day! And how cool is it to be making your very own noodles for pho!

  23. Phuoc

    Muppy: Indeed it was :)

    Julia: That’s great to know he loves Vietnamese food. A trip to Vietnam is really affordable, including flights we spent $3000/3 weeks and of course you can spend less than this as we splurged a little.. I hope you get to go there soon, it’s a lovely country.

    Christine: Thank you :) It is simple to make but the time to make a good broth takes a long time that’s all, but if you have the patience to make it it will be so worth it! Psst.. The recipe is on their website :)

    Peter: Awesome! I hope you get there soon, Hoi An (and Vietnam) is beautiful!

    Mademoiselle délicieuse: Yeah… that’s definitely something I have to make one day..

    Sara: I’m 150% sure that it wasn’t a typo :p Tipsy cooking is fun lol

    Xiaolu: I hope you do too, it’s ridiculously cheap and alot of fun :)

    Angie: That was one of the higlights of the class; making the rice noodles, we’re lucky to have the product here already made for us so it was good to learn how to make it from scratch.

  24. catty

    i LOOOOVE that pic of you on the rice paddy! hahaha :D

  25. Phuoc

    Catty: Hehe thanks! :)

  26. Apex@blueapocalypse

    I have just been reading all your Vietnam trip posts as I will be travelling there in October and I really enjoy them :)

    I have been looking into a cooking class to take while I am over there. Was wondering if you pre-booked your Red Bridge Cooking Class before you went to Vietnam or could you book while you are there. Don’t have set days for when I will be in Hoi An, my friend and I are keeping it flexible and hopping on trains between places as we feel like it.

  27. Phuoc

    Apex: Thanks! We pre-booked but I’m sure you can give them a call and book when you get there. I’ve provided the contact details so make sure you write them down. Enjoy!

  28. Tan

    Hi ,It was great ,Look delicious Too .Last time I have been in HCM Cooking class in Cu Chi ,Ho Chi Minh City .It is also fabulous .All the food is fresh and Organic grow up on Next door of cooking school in Big Villages .We have great time to pick up fresh food on The garden and great hands to learn healthy food with Master Chef Tan and He also said about Red Bridge Cooking School .Next Time when I visit .I Will book a long trip in Vietnam and find out How it going ?

  29. Phuoc

    Tan: Yes I love these cooking classes and how they show aspects of the town in the tour, from the local produce to the markets; you get an appreciation of the lives of the local and the amazing food they have on offer. I hope you get to attend the Red Bridge cooking class one day soon :)

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