We arrived in DaNang late afternoon, and drove straight to Hoi An. Our homestay, Loc Phat is a sweet, small place close to town and about 3 km from the beach. Our host family lives adjacent. Linh helped us settled in, then we went for a walk. The food here is supposed to be the best in Vietnam. Judging by the Banh Mi we had at the corner (Linh’s suggestion), I’ll swear to it.
We have no plans here yet and the break feels good.
Got up early and sat at breakfast for a few hours. It’s rainincrazy hard, but with Linh’s help, we signed up for a cooking class anyway. Called the Thuan Tinh Island – Cooking Tour, we spent the first hour or so in the marketplace, in the pouring rain. Always one of my favorite places, I’m coming home with tons of pictures of vegetables. The markets are covered, but to get from one side of the street to the other we were ankle deep in water. Hurray for kayaking shoes.
Here are three pictures of a lovely Vietnamese woman
We bought greens, beef, and chicken. I found pennywort and although we did not make the salad we had in Burma, we bought some for our spring rolls. Then we boarded a boat and traveled about a half hour down river. On the way, our guide, Hihn, told us a bit about the tax system, how cars are taxed so heavily, a used American car would cost about $20,000 and a new American car, $60,000, That there is no free health care.
We switched to row boats and paddled through water palms to a tiny dock. Covered with pink and pale green plastic raincoats, we look like pastel cake decorations. But we’re dry…ish. We were an odd group, a bickering couple from Canada, a sweet young Israeli couple, and two German girls. It was only odd because the bickering couple continued to make side comments about each other all afternoon.
Hinh showed us how to make rice milk, using a grinding stone, the same type we have in our garden at home. We took the rice milk over to the outdoor kitchen and set it aside.
We were introduced to our cooking instructor, a formidable woman who was insistent we do thing her way! The plan for the afternoon was to put up the beef broth first, so it could simmer 1 1/2 hours. It was a classic bone broth infused for 5 minutes with cinnamon bark and star anise. We learned that any longer and the spices would have turned the broth bitter.
In the meantime, we made fancy spring rolls, learning to roll them differently than usual. They tasted great, in if not perfectly rolled. Then we used our rice milk for pancakes filled with vegetables and shrimp. We were under the impression they were made with egg, as they come out rather yellowish, but it’s the turmeric in the batter. It’s Rachelle’s favorite, and really good. I liked the idea of creating, then eating each dish as it came up.
The third dish was a beautiful beef noodle salad, with mostly greens. Our instructor gave us precise instructions on decorating the plate: 24 1/2 moons of cucumber, 6 in a row, 4 rows, radiating in from the rim of the plate, each row flanked by 2 strips of carrots. Compose the salad in the center, in the designated order…. You get the idea. Rachelle the rebel, was pretty much in trouble the whole time. Finally, we went back to our beef broth and assembled a delicious soup. All in all, a very satisfying, filling day!
We took a car back, changed and went into the old quarter for the evening. No cars on the streets, so one would think it’s safe to walk, but motor bikes are allowed, so be on your guard. We found a little restaurant and had a banana flower salad. The first time I had it was in India, and it was 100 times better here. The mackerel stew was not so good. The fish was so overlooked we just left it. When the waitress came around, she was distressed that we left the fish. We explained that it was tough. She left for a moment, came back with a fruit plate and explained that it would be taken off the bill. She apologized profusely and hoped we would return. I thought it was so professional of the restaurant staff, and will give it a good review on trip advisor.
Returning back to the homestay, we got on the back of some guy’s bike. He way overcharged us, though I thought he should have paid us as Rachelle was right behind him and he seemed to be enjoying it too much.