Craig Writes: The 19th was market tour and cooking class day. The markets lure you in with the sweet smell of freshly cooked Taro dumplings. Plump, sugary sweet and steamy hot. Mountains of fresh produce, veggies of every description and colour line either side of the entrance. Beckoning you in like two huge multi-coloured arms eager for a big veggie hug. The scent of barrows of freshly cut herbs, coriander, basil and mint tease the nose and get the taste buds working. But, as you take those first steps off the street and slowly make your way inside another scent quickly reveals itself. Faint and wafting from somewhere back in the darker recesses of the markets. Carried forward on a very slight breeze. Casually it starts to pervert the sweet smell of the produce, so fresh a life force still beats within it. There is a rankness to it. An unpleasantness. We follow our guide and chef through grey puddles, bending and side stepping to the toots of the Hondas as they weave their way through the narrow pathways of he market. We are quickly upon the source of the odour, or so I thought. Bright shiny sheets of stainless steel covered in bright pink piles of freshly slaughtered pork, lamb and beef. It all actually looks amazingly good. They slaughter and sell within hours so the luxury of refrigeration is not missed. But this is not the source of the stealthy pong. We walk further into the darkness and the assault on the senses is immediate. A mere few metres on and trays piled high with every foul organ you could wish to put in your mouth appear. All pink and gun metal grey. Only hours ago they were gainfully supporting the internal workings of their host. Now they sit in a tray of their own juices, slushing and slimy. Heart, lung, tongue, spleen. A woman carves a large slice of freshly boiled liver and pops in her mouth. Fancy small small intestines in your large intestine. Its here for the taking. Fish heads so freshly parted from their bodies they still pump and ooze blood. Chickens boiled whole with their little glazed chicken eyes and little chicken beaks. It urns them yellow so they look like the rubber chickens a clown might use. A woman and a man sit knee deep in large toads chopping off little toadie arms and legs and tossing them into a pile.
Alas poor Kermit I knew him well.
|You can almost hear them screaming.|
I didn't have the guts to try this
Thankfully toads, guts or suckling dog are not on our cooking class menu. The actually cooking class was relatively uneventful. Pho Bo (beef noodle soup), rice paper roles with dipping sauce, papaya salad, deep fried prawn cakes and a funny little thing called banana che which should have tasted a lot better than it did. Bananas cooked in sugar syrup and coconut cream. Too watery and the bananas too hard. I hate a hard narna.
Four happy chefs
Christina writes: The food of Vietnam is enticing. The perfect balance of fresh and bright, crisp and light, subtle yet flavoursome. What I loved about the cooking class is that it was hands on, and the kids were treated like adults and given big butchers knives and the opportunity to carve carrots and papaya into little gems that would float in dipping sauce. They peeled and shredded papaya alongside us and whisked up dipping sauces.
|Callum whisking up ingredients for the prawn cakes|
And the boys tried everything - well almost everything....
Did you ever see the episode of the Amazing race when contestants had to eat Balut?
Balut is a fertilized duck or chicken egg that you hard boil. Contestants had to eat about ten I think. Our guide bought a few from the market and cooked them up for us to try - but not before dissecting them like a science experiment. Tastes like egg with a bit of crunch.
|Okay, looks like an egg...|
|Still looks like an egg...|
|Uh Ohh...what's that??|
|Embryo being separated (gag reflex activated)|