After a few weeks of relaxation and taking things slowly I decided that it was high time that we stepped it up a little … it was time for some activity, so I booked us all in to a ‘Family Fun Day!’ It wasn’t advertised as that, it was (yes, ANOTHER) cooking school, but that was just a small component of the day. The other ‘extra’ activities made it a whole lot of fun for all of us – perfect!
The fun started when we all loaded into a local ‘basket boat’. They’re very cute, and remarkably effective little round boats, that look just like enormous baskets. The boats are made entirely out of split bamboo that is tightly woven then coated with a type of tar or varnish to waterproof it.
We’d seen them lined up along An Bang beach in Hoi An, and cheered them on as they made their way out into the rather rough ocean. (even by Aussie standards!) We were all amazed that these comical little boats actually made it past, not only the first break, but the bigger 2nd break a little further out. They look like they’re about to tip at any minute but they are incredibly stable and sturdy constructions, and as we found out, relatively easy to paddle and manoeuvre about.
After a lot of giggling and unintentional games of ‘bumper boats’ we landed at the little local shanty- looking place that has been made into a cooking school. It looked quaint and a little basic but very warm and welcoming, and certainly not like any other school we’ve been to. Perfect, I thought.
One of the main reasons that I booked this particular tour was that it offered a variety of activities that I thought would please everyone in our little camp. The boat ride was heaps of fun, then next on our packed itinerary was a spot of fishing in the school’s very own lake, or let’s say larger than normal pond. The rods were super simple, a bamboo pole with fishing line attached, a single hook, no reels, nothing fancy. Perfect for our little ones who just enjoyed the simple act of flicking the rod into the water, tugging and pulling on it a few times, then pulling it out. There’s really no wonder that the fish weren’t taking Jed and Deni’s bait – those poor, hungry fish would have been dizzy and exhausted chasing their lines around. But, thankfully Jed did catch the ‘biggest’ fish of the day, which of course got away! Deni was quite happy with the whole experience even if she went away empty handed!
The next activity was Vietnam’s take on the Piñata, but rather than the colourful papier-mâché creations that we have seen in the past we were lined up to belt a clay urn. The other difference is that it was all about the thrill of actually connecting with the target, not the shower of lollies that usually followed – the urn was empty! It’s funny that neither Jed nor Deni even registered that something was missing from the piñata. They were so wrapped up in the excitement of the game that this little fact totally escaped them.
We then moved into the kitchen, put on our aprons and real-life Chef’s hats and started our cooking lesson for today.
The menu was perfect and relatively simple, spring rolls, papaya salad, Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancakes – just for you Mum!) and braised pork. We all attempted to julienne the carrots – by hand, no handy little kitchen appliances here – then rolled the spring rolls and got the low-down on how they actually make their yummy savory pancakes. The one key ingredient in the Vietnamese cuisine that we have totally fallen in love with is the addition of fresh herbs in almost every dish. For example the secret with the pancakes is the fresh mint, coriander and various types of lettuce, as well as the bean sprouts that you add in before you roll it. It not only adds a delicious burst of flavour but also the crunchy texture is just delightful. You find this in everything from the Banh Xeo (pancakes) to the Banh Mi (baguette) and the Cao Lau (local noodle dish).
It’s a winner and one tip that we’ll be using when we finally use our own kitchen again!
We all arrived back to our home stay happy and content with memories of bobbing basket boats and bamboo fishing rods, not to mention full bellies and a whole new swag of recipes for our collection!