ceF in vietnam – part 2
saigon cooking class and again, dinner at the night market

October 16th, 2010 · 20 Comments


i think the only thing that’s truly remarkable about the fact that i made this dish is the whole "presentation" thing. i’m usually short on looks and long on flavor. by the time i get a dish tasting how i want it, the way that it looks matters little to me. especially if knife skills are required and it’s only a decorative garnish. i’m just not that cook. except for today. today i spent about 6 hours with 2 guys, one who was the chef and the other who was just a lost paying soul like me looking to glean some cooking tips. there were 4 courses for our lunch which began with a trip to saigon’s biggest and best market, ben thanh. i’m going back by myself tomorrow for a longer look. the hell with the war remnants museum and the reunification palace, show me how the people live, show me what sustains them. to me the market is the life force of the city. 

dried shrimp. lots and lots of dried shrimp…
the banana flower salad is a relatively common dish in vietnam and one that i have seen in the states, but instead of the banana flower, cabbage is used. why i never make this at home, i do not know – but now i plan on having it often. it is simply a taste sensation and so incredibly simple to prepare. the dressing is the vietnamese classic of equal parts water, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar with minced garlic and chiles. the salad is the shredded banana leaf, shredded chicken breast, julienned carrots and green peppers (take that
ruhlman) and some fresh herbs. we used rau ram and hun kay – the former i know is available in the ny area although not readily unless you live in chinatown and the latter i have seen but don’t know the english name and googling it didn’t help. but regardless, mint and thai basil would do quite nicely. the salad is finished with crispy fried shallots and chopped roasted peanuts – not too much of either, and let me just say once more: this salad is truly amazing. and honestly, it’s not even cooking, it is merely assembling. oh, and chili pepper flower and outer banana flower petal dish? optional…

nearly everything is alive and there is zero fish odor.

also at lunch there were seafood and taro fried spring rolls that were ok but not so much my thing, and pho was explained and assembled but i’ve learned from pardus how to make that and quite frankly, michael’s broth is better. but it was a lovely setting with really nice guys and we had good fun. afterwards i went and got a neck and head massage while also getting a foot and leg massage. simultaneously. for an hour. for $30. in what would be considered a high end spa. i’m not sure how physically therapeutic it was… if you’re into serious massage this is in the vein of swedish – at best, not so much therapeutic. but still, it was welcomed by my travel weary body.

for dinner, a vietnamese crepe at the night market. there were also shrimp steamed in beer and a bowl of rice noodles with some bbq’d pork that were both excellent. 

i was moving past them quickly so pardon the blur… but this is vietnam.

Tags: asian · travel

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Melissa // Oct 16, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    “to me the market is the life force of the city.”

    Well, yeah. Isn’t it? I mean, not here, sadly but… a lot of places…

    I love this. I love seeing your trip. Can’t wait to see more.

  • 2 annie // Oct 16, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Oh, keep it coming………..

  • 3 bob del Grosso // Oct 16, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    The dish you made shows serious attention to technique. It tasted great too, I will bet.

  • 4 diana // Oct 16, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Beautiful, my friend. I love reading about this. Keep it coming!

  • 5 The Italian Dish // Oct 16, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    It’s all so amazing. So different. I’m so jealous.

  • 6 ethel // Oct 17, 2010 at 8:29 am

    This is like living your trip for me .
    I can just see you at these markets exploring each taste and visual sensation , doing what you love and having the passion to be part of the culture.
    Interesting…. no fish smells like in Chinatown NYC.
    Now to re-read it again.

  • 7 yveala // Oct 17, 2010 at 9:19 am

    such great stuff..keep feeding us!

  • 8 Casey Kelly // Oct 17, 2010 at 10:46 am

    To quote you, “I had no idea!” It looks like more food and adventures than will fit in one lifetime, much less the real time you’ve expressed. No wonder you’re experiencing a time disconnect. The pictures are stunning and the flavors they suggest are beyond that. I look forward to the next installment. Continued discoveries and enjoyment to you.

  • 9 Dr. Lita // Oct 17, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Dearest Claudia:

    I want that first dish beautiful but looks luscious and that vietnamese crepe…….Ethel and I have to go, we looooooove the markets and the one you pictured is fabulous.

    I am saving my appetite……You are amazing Claudia, your writing inspires and is very articulate and your pictures are wonderful. Who knew this was Vietnam???????
    You are really showing a side that I have never seen, thank you Goddess.

    Love ya,

  • 10 Leslie Ellis // Oct 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    loveloveloving this blog. I’m entranced by your adventures and inspired by your gastro-courage! GO CLAUDIA!

  • 11 Tim Russell // Oct 18, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Glad it’s all going well Claudia, & glad you enjoyed the dinner at the night market. Apologies for dragging you to no less than 3 restaurants which had closed down since I last visited them, getting harder to find real VN food in the centre of Saigon these days, they’re all selling up & moving out to the ‘burbs. Good luck for the rest of the tour.

  • 12 Suzanne Strickland // Oct 18, 2010 at 5:48 am

    Claudia, that “Europe girl” seems to have taken the Asian express to a different kind paradise & sounds like she’s beyond happy to be there. I’ve never had an inclination to visit Asia either, but you know how much I love truly great food…I could be convinced! The first two installments were beyond amazing so keep ’em coming…pretty please! Love you…safe travels.

  • 13 ravenouscouple // Oct 18, 2010 at 9:34 am

    so glad you’re enjoying the foods of our motherland :) but we believe the term hung que or rau que refers to basil.. there is also another plant similar in appearance called kinh gio or lemon balm which is also hard to find. Keep up the blogging and have fun!

  • 14 S L // Oct 18, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Excellent ! Whenever you have a moment, tell us about the fish sauce – are you seeing big differences between types and brands or is it all about what you would expect from having had what’s available stateside ?

    Sounds like we need Michael’s recipe for Pho at some point and hey – nifty knife work !!

  • 15 badmash // Oct 22, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

  • 16 Bren // Oct 26, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    A vietnamese crepe? I want some now. And that first dish looks amazing no matter how challenging you think plating is for you… and Vietnam! I love it!
    Good to be here again.

  • 17 Tony // Nov 3, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Oh now i must say that this is a fun fun ride.

  • 18 Caroline Greley // Nov 4, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Nice to meet you via this blog! We are enjoying the series. Please keep us informed until the very end. You made us want to go to Vietnam for sure. We had no idea.

  • 19 tim johnson // Jan 16, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    claudia…. i am so freaking jealous. I absolutely love vietnamese food. It’s Pho-king delicious…. sorry i am so crude…. poor upbringing…miss you.

  • 20 ilda // Apr 13, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Great article and nice comments. Glad to read that you have been happy of the result of what you cooked at Saigon Cooking Class!

  • 21 Fifa 16 coins // Sep 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Too bad we have to return them .

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