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Vietnamese Cooking Class ~ Fried Saigon Spring Rolls

May 13, 2011

The Highway 4 Restaurant in Hanoi (located at 5 P Hang Tre) was by far our best and most consistently delicious food experience in Vietnam.  It was also the restaurant where we made arrangements to take a cooking class.

Before embarking on a journey that would take us half way around the world and far, far away from our home in Canada we spent a considerable amount of time reading and researching all the different things the country has to offer.  Asia is known for its food culture and many restaurants in Vietnam offer cooking classes to both the experienced and inexperienced cook.  Perfect for us (Matt being extremely comfortable in the kitchen and me, well I am completely unsure of the whole cooking thing but LOVE CANNING).  From home, we emailed back and forth with the manager of the Highway 4 Restaurant and made arrangements to take a cooking class on the first Saturday after we landed in Hanoi on Thursday April 21st.  We figured we would be over the jet lag and ready to jump both feet in to this unique food culture. 

The class started at 8:00am and we showed up to the Highway 4 Restaurant bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  First order of business was for our group of 8 to be transported via cyclos (which can better be described as bicycle rickshaws) to the Hom Market. 

At the Hom Market our English-speaking tour guide, Teresa, gave a quick lesson on the importance of the street markets.  And, despite the fact that in more recent years, the number of traditional street markets has reduced greatly to make way for more modern multi-storey trade centres, the popularity of the traditional street market still remains today.  It provides the people with an excellent selection of meat, seafood, and fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, spices, flowers, fabric, and an assortment of other household items. 

 

 

The markets are bustling with activity, scents and smells both delicious and disgusting, women trading, selling, and negotiating, and hundreds of people and motorbikes coming and going.  It really is a site and experience unlike anything in North America…even Toronto’s China Town or St. Lawrence Market can not compare to these street market centres.

Teresa pointed out a number of different things found in the market from the fake money bought by the Vietnamese to burn or donate to their gods in order to bring their family more prosperity to the never-ending supply of fish sauce.  We also stopped at a fruit stall to sample some milk fruit.  We’d never seen this fruit before and were glad to be with Teresa when we tried it for the first time.  Who would have known this fruit needed to be massaged before eating to change the fruit from its naturally sour state to something with a sweeter taste?  

 

There were so many different fruits and vegetables surrounding us and the sights and smells from each stall left your head spinning.  Another interesting fruit is the fruit of a thousand hands (it has no single English word equivalent).  It tastes similar to a guava and is purchased mainly as an offering to the spirits in hopes of greater prosperity.  

We exited the market back onto the busy streets of Hanoi where Teresa called for two taxis.  Within minutes the cabs appeared to whisk us away to the other Highway 4 Restaurant where our cooking class would take place.  Transportation in this country is always an adventure and can be difficult at the best of times but after multiple near motorbike misses and millions of honks later we all safely made it to the other restaurant.

Teresa escorted us to the fourth floor where we greeted the female head chef of the restaurant, changed into our chef’s uniforms, and began cooking our three course meal. 

 

Over the course of the next few hours we prepared three dishes.  First, the fish simmered in Fish Sauce.  It took the longest to cook and could easily be prepared and cooking while we made the next two dishes.  The fried Saigon spring rolls and the beef sautéed in black pepper sauce followed.  While are were delicious our favorite was the Fried Saigon Spring Rolls and the Fish simmered in Fish Sauce would be a very close second.

RECIPE FOR FRIED SAIGON SPRING ROLLS (makes 8 spring rolls):

  • onion 200 grams
  • carrots 150 grams
  • dried vermicelli 30 grams
  • earwood mushrooms 30 grams
  • shitake mushrooms 30 grams
  • minced pork 300 grams
  • 2 eggs
  • round/square rice paper (1/2 a pack)
  • chicken stock powder, fish sauce, pepper

RECIPE FOR DIPPING SAUCE:

  • 2 ladles of both water and white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 ladles of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of both chili sauce and cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon of both salt and fish sauce
  • 5 gloves crushed garlic
  • 1 chili; chopped

Note:  The term ladles”  refers to a traditional asian spoon.  It is the spoon used in most of our Chinese and Japanese restaurants.  It is also the tool with which they use to measure ingredients.  See ladles in photo below.

  1. Soak the dried vermicelli, earwood and shitake mushrooms in warm water for 10-20 minutes and then dry & finely chop.
  2. Finely chop onions and carrots.
  3. Put all the prepared ingredients into a large mixing bowl, add fish sauce, chicken stock powder, pepper and chicken eggs.  Note: the addition of the fish sauce, chicken stock powder, and pepper was all done by eye. (approx.  a dash of each)
  4. Spoon a tablespoon of the prepared ingredients onto a sheet of rice paper before rolling.  Remember that the shiny side of the rice paper should be on the outside.
  5. Pour some cooking oil into a frying pan, bring to a boil, add the spring rolls, turn down the heat and turn occasionally.
  6. Fry the spring rolls until their colour turns light brown.
  7. Make dipping sauce.
  8. Serve hot with herbs & dipping sauce and bun (fresh vermicelli noodle).

Once we finished making all three courses the entire class sat down to enjoy the meal.  It was delicious!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2011 11:15 am

    Great photos guys! Love the one of Matt in his hat…but all your photos are terrific.
    They ALMOST made me want to get in the kitchen and whip up some spring rolls….ALMOST!!

  2. sylvia permalink
    May 13, 2011 4:10 pm

    Thank you SOOO much for the recipe! I cant WAIT to get the ingredients and make these spring rolls. We have a great asian market here in town, and I love having excuses to go in there. I’m just getting hung up on converting the grams into cup sizes.

  3. jackratdoll3 permalink
    May 23, 2011 6:51 pm

    Were the rice paper wrappers dry? I made the recipe and had a heck of a time with the wrappers. Could only find the dry ones and they did not wrap without cracking, so I dipped them in water. Once wet, they were pliable and allowed the wrapping, but did not brown no matter how long I fried them. Otherwise, very yummy.
    Thanks!

    • May 23, 2011 6:59 pm

      Yes, the rice papers were dry. One side was very shiny well the other one was more matte. They were completely dry when we wrapped them but the moist ingredients (the filling) made them fairly easy to wrap (kind of sticky). There may have been a little bit of cracking but not too bad. Once the oil was hot/boiling the spring rolls were put in to cook and the wrappers browned up nicely but it did take longer than expected and we thought they would be really greasy. But, we were pleasantly surprised! Maybe wetting them prevented the browning!?!
      I’ll see what kind of wrappers we are able to find at home and let you know if we are able to achieve the same results.

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