Cooking Classes /

Tra Que Waterwheel Cooking Class

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.


  1. We loved a day spent with the hilarious Water Wheel Cooking class guides so much we brought our university age grandson back the next year and will bring another one in 2019.

    The time the 5 people in our group spent in the market learning how to recognize the best crabs, which sea items were fresh and which not, what the spices were, etc. and buying our food that we would be soon cooking was great. We arrived at the thatched roof, open air, cooking and dining hall and turned our food bags over to someone who would do some washing and prep work. Then put on our “pajamas” (they were like the clothes vegetable gardeners usually wear including cone hats – made us quite photogenic) and out past the water wheel into the organic gardens to weed, water and plant some cilantro plants alongside the owner of that plot. We got some quick lessons on how to fertilize with seaweed and other tips for staying organic. Leaving the garden, we picked a few more things we would need for our menu, including lemon grass. But wait! No cooking yet! We came face to face with a big lake.

    So next on our day’s journey, we climbed into round woven boats. Our helmsman gave us turns at locomoting it (I use the word “turn” advisedly – on my turn we turned around in circles more than went straight ahead.) When we went next to the rushes, our guide taught us fun things to make out of them, including a very realistic grasshopper.

    Out of the boats and into the meadow where a water buffalo waited for selfies with us – beside, sitting on, and, for the brave ones, standing on. Then to wash up, and operate the big stone grinder to make rice flour for rice paper. While waiting for the rice paper to finish over the coals, foot baths and massages were available.

    Then the big moment. With cooking hats and aprons on we made a banquet of delectable and picturesque items, stopping to eat as we went. We made flamed fish, tossed pancake thingies in the air (another fun photo op), and created delightful little creatures, butterflies and flowers made out of tomatoes, carrots and such, and much more. All the time our lead chef regaled us with funny stories and great info about Vietnamese cooking and ingredients.

    If I hear of anyone coming to the Central Vietnam area, I do everything I can to convince them to come to Hoi An for a memorable day experiencing the Water Wheel cooking class!


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