Who doesn’t want to go for a countryside bike ride, dress up and pretend to be a farmer, cook and eat, and finish off the day riding a water buffalo? The Tra Que Waterwheel Organic Farm Cooking Class in Hoi An promised so much and spectacularly delivered on its promise of being much more than a cooking class.
Following a quick tour of Hoi An Central Market, we cycled scenically the long way round to the Tra Que vegetable gardens – a truly stunning, verdant patchwork quilt bordered by colorful flowers with an ancient waterwheel irrigating this peaceful, fairytale scene.
Starting with the basics we dressed in farmers’ clothing and conical hats (Non La) and harvested river weed. I could have stayed in the river all day, but no, our patch of dirt was calling us to be tilled, fertilized (with river weed) and planted with seedlings. All of this hard graft was accompanied by laughter as we learnt Vietnamese harvesting songs and dances. (No, white men can’t dance.)
I’m sure our unappealing attempts at rice paper making that followed were fed to neighborhood pigs that day.
Next, dressed in chefs’ coats and hats we had a go at transforming carrots and tomatoes into tulips, rabbits and butterflies – more food for the local pigs.
Our young, ebullient chef/teacher made the whole experience fun for young and old and my favorite dish was the spring roll of mint, coriander, cooked prawn and pork wrapped together with a piece of simmered spring onion. Delicious and unlike any spring roll I have eaten in Hoi An, I am definitely making this one again. See the website for the complete menu options.
At the end of day all participants went home tired, with full tummies and a much better appreciation of the hard work involved by Vietnamese farmers in getting food to their table. In addition, learning how to make rice paper and the education on different herbs and their uses was illuminating.