How to Roll Spring Rolls…
WORDS & IMAGES: LINA CRONIN
What could be more quintessential than learning how to make spring rolls in Vietnam? Lina Cronin visits Hoi An and shares her Vietnamese spring roll experience with us…
Raindrops splashed on my face, so many that I could hardly see, and mud splattered up my legs, lifted by the wheels of my bicycle bouncing over the rickety dirt track through the rural outskirts of Hoi An, Vietnam. We hadn’t quite planned for this to be such a rainy day again; yesterday’s 10-cent ponchos already had rips in the arms. I didn’t care. The day was mild, the air fresh and clean.
The surrounding scenery of rice paddies and farmland was beautiful, dotted here and there by a few houses, and divided up by narrow roads on which motorbikes and the occasional second (or third)-hand car rolled past. We even saw a couple of lone buffalo!
Ms Hoa was ahead of us – she was meant to be on her bicycle too but hers had broken that morning; now she had to do about 10kms/hour on her scooter so she didn’t lose us in the landscape. We were on our way to visit her family home, where her and her husband Mr Dung had set up a small, local tourism business and cooking school just a few years earlier: The Coconut Hat.
We had already been to the markets that morning. Ms Hoa had pointed out the various ingredients we’d be using and shown us some of Vietnam’s most popular fruits, vegetables and meats. Among other things, we’d seen a lady squatting on the ground with a meat cleaver, chopping a giant Sting Ray into chunks to be sold, we’d tasted some pickled vegetables and been shown which cooking utensils were important for Vietnamese cooking.
The Coconut Hat cooking class
Now we were on our way to The Coconut Hat. Located among the water coconut plantations of Hoi An’s surrounding farmland, we couldn’t have asked for a more authentic, natural, beautiful setting. It felt like we were being allowed into the sacred, real, honest life of a Vietnamese farming family – away from the throngs of tourists who visit Hoi An mainly to have suits and wedding dresses tailored or to visit the local beaches and savour the area’s seafood. While we had also been to these places, we were keen for a more ‘local’ experience, and were lucky to have been told about Ms Hoa’s cooking classes.
As it turned out, we were her only two students for the day. Ms Hoa, now a mother of two young children, used to be a chef (‘not a main chef,’ as she enforced), and was able to give clear instructions and guidance as we prepared spring rolls, crab pancakes, papaya salad, whole fish in banana leaf and banana pancakes. Being the only students, the class was extremely flexible – we could eat each dish immediately after we’d prepared it and, as an added bonus, we were able to cook whilst drinking some good local beer.
Needless to say, we loved it. Vietnam, a country famous for its fresh, flavoursome food, came to life for us that day, through the skilful direction of Ms Hoa and the authentic setting of her little family-run business.
Coconut Hat Tours operate out of Hoi An in Vietnam’s mid-west. Full day tours, start from around AUD$28, and include a personalised pick-up, a bicycle tour through the rural countryside, a traditional basket boat tour through the water coconut plantations, and a massage or cooking class.
As a journalist with an international tourism management degree, Lina has worked and volunteered in many countries; including for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation in Spain. She now offers her skills to Our Planet Travel on a regular basis – which we are very grateful for. Lina also assists with our social media activities. Currently Lina works for Ecotourism Australia.
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