Keen to try my hand at Vietnamese cuisine, I readily joined the cooking class offered at our hotel in Hue, the Pilgrimage Village, which included a trip to the local market.
Early the next day I was met at the lobby by Long (guest relations officer and our private concierge) and Trang, the very sweet young chef who was also to be my instructor.
We made our way to the Hue central market, a cornucopia of colours, smells and a sea of conical hats. Trang quickly ushered me through to the fish, meat and vegetable sections, expertly purchasing the rudiments of my lunch. On our way out we even met Longís pretty wife, who was a seamstress in the marketís upper floor.
Back at the hotel, I freshened up with some bracing local coffee while the hotel staff gutted, peeled, chopped and washed (I hope) the fresh produce. Long interestingly told me too that there were no supermarkets in Hue Ė and everybody simply went to the market for practically everything as freshness was really important to them. Makes sense.
I cant remember the last time I saw some really fresh produce at my supermarket.
I was finally called to the hotelís restaurant terrace, where under the bougainvilla lay a long table, filled with little bright bowls of seafood, meat, herbs, noodles, veg etc. All on a gleaming white tablecloth, all lovely jubbly.
Trang came and gave mea an apron and chefís hat (ooh!) to wear, and got on with the lesson. I must say that she was quite strict, making me repeat some things over and over again until I got it right (like the damn folding of the pancake inside simmering oil!), and gently encouraging me to try harder like the time when I gave up trying to slice the pork into wafer thin slices with her huge cleaver.
They took photos and my husband came and partook (extra charge of $10 for him) of my fresher-than-fresh authentic Vietnamese meal (Hue pancake, pho bac and fried squid), which we both agreed was very good indeed.