Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cooking Class and Friendship

When there is a will there is a way

My willingness to cook has been there and is among one of the priority things to do in Ho Chi Minh City.  Apparently my TaiTai life is not as "quiet" as I thought.  I ended up as a busy TaiTai.  Cooking becomes less priority comparing to French and Vietnamese classes or Yoga.

Until one day, I remembered about it and I right away registered myself to a Vietnamese Cooking Class including visit to Ben Thanh Market.  It is a cool way to be a tourist in my own city, plus I wanted to meet more people...

Stalls at Ben Thanh Market

When I woke up on Tuesday morning

So there I was, on one Tuesday morning at 8.30am I went to the meeting point to join the Chef and the group of participants at Cua Tay entrance of the Ben Thanh Market.

First time I ever saw yellow/green chili (left side). So fresh though!

It is a group of around ten people consisting mostly of tourists.  Others are foreigners living in this city.  By walking together as a group, while purchasing the ingredients with the Chef, the group members informally introduced themselves one to another.  I was happy to meet everyone especially Sherlyn, whom straight away greeted me in Bahasa Indonesia as soon as she knew that I am Indonesian.  She is Malaysian but lives in Singapore.  She speaks good Malay.  Jadi kita ngobrol pake Bahasa Melayu. That was her first trip to Vietnam and the first overseas trip she ever did in solo.

Fresh veggie for our cooking

Shopping the ingredients and listening to the Chef’s explanation.  It was fun.  Of course, almost everyone liked to take pics of what they saw in the market.  Among the explanations, the Chef explained the difference between Kumquat (nuoc tac) and regular lemon, and why Kumquat is required to make sweet and sour fish sauce.

It was a surprise to me that vegetable, sea food, fish and meat prices are fixed in Ben Thanh Market.  The price list is put on the wall here and there.  Of course it is updated regularly. 

I think these fishes are cute...

Every day before dawn, when most people are still snoring in their bed, activities started around 2-3 am in this market.  All of the fresh vegetable, fish, meat, and sea food come here from the suppliers.  Ben Thanh Market gets the number one priority of those stuffs before they get distributed to other market within the city.  That is why prices are higher compared to other wet market.  All is because of its freshness.  If some stuff cannot be found in Ben Thanh Market, it means it cannot be found somewhere else.

Fresh seafood

Once shopping was done, we all took a taxi together to Hai Ba Trung street (Hoa Tuc) where the cooking class takes place.

This is our cooking table

Let’s Cook!

Two long tables have been prepared.  One is for the actual cooking and the other one is for eating.  Cooking lesson started at 10am.

Happy cooking!
I always believe that ‘learning by doing’ gives better result.  Just like this Cooking Class.  The Chef gave guidance which one to cut or peel, which ones to mix, which one to be put into the bowl, etc.  He demonstrated on how to make the dry curly noodle then he wanted us to do the same.  No one could escape this test.

This is how to make the curly noodle

Through the Cooking…

It is interesting to notice how everyone cooks.  I did not really mind if the ginger I peeled, became a strange shape.  It will give the same taste anyway!  But it is not the same case to some others.  Someone peeled it perfectly-:)

Raw ingredients to cook chicken stew with ginger & coconut juice

We learned how to cook Vietnamese food, we ate our own cooking and we got to know other participants.  There were three guys coming from the US.  They came to do sightseeing and to have culinary experience.  The culinary reason is most often become their main goal of the trip.  They tried many types of food, from the day-to-day yummy food to the Michelin star dishes.  It is from one of them that I knew a 3 star Michelin restaurant called El Bulli exists in Barcelona.  Oh yeah, after I told my loved one about this restaurant, he bombarded me with information about how unique the Chef cooks the meals.

Ready to eat "chicken stew with ginger & coconut juice"

Everyone enjoyed the atmosphere.  It was fun cooking.

One Korean guy apparently has been living in Ho Chi Minh City for six months and studied Vietnamese language at the same place I do.  We had the same teacher.  Small world.

Appetizer: mustard leaves roll with crunchy vegetables

At the end of the class, we got the food recipes.  The best part is when we received the certificate which was signed by the Chef.  It is as a sign of our graduation. Hurray!

We said good bye to other participants.  One by one left the place.  Some had to rush to the airport to go back to their home country.  I went to my Vietnamese class.  I was one hour late.  Food was too good to be missed.

When you expect nothing, the unexpected happens...

The following Sunday afternoon, my Singaporean girlfriend was in town.  We went together to our favorite coffee place in Dong Khoi.  I contacted my Indonesian girlfriend who works and lives in town, who happened to be around Dong Khoi, to join us.

Girls from different nations @ L'Usine

It was a very nice unplanned Sunday afternoon for the girls… Lisa, Miranti and I enjoyed coffee, tea, cakes, salad, whatever we wanted to eat … We talked girls stuff, no guys would be interested to hear these chit chats…

Suddenly I saw Sherlyn sitting by herself at the other table.  It was her last day in town, and that evening she had to return to Singapore.  I invited her to join our table.  That’s the girls power – the four of us has the same chemistry, we talked as if we have been friends for years …

We talked about where Sherlyn got her cute bag and persuaded her to become the distributor for South East Asia – LOL…. We shared stories of what brought us to this city, our real life experience, fun, laugh and tears…

It was one of the nicest “tea time” I ever had in Ho Chi Minh City.  The four ladies at L’Usine…

As much as we wanted to continue talking about life, love and dream… someone had to catch up her flight and the party has to be ended.  However the friendship remains…

We stay in touch and pray for each others happiness.

As today is a day before Valentine's Day, let me dedicated this posting to:
  • three girlfriends mentioned in this posting: Miranti, Lisa and Sherlyn...,
  • Indonesian girlfriends in Saigon: Eva, Indra, Dennissia, Rita, Yessi, Lucy, Heny...,
  • GG girlfriends in Jakarta/Singapore/Kuala Lumpur: Fitri, Shanti, Oci, Yunita, Sofi and Niq...,
  • Vietnamese class friends: Tomomi and Sohee...,
  • Vietnamese girlfriends: Tram, Phuong, Ngan, Kim Cuc, Tuyen, Phuong Anh, and Thao Ly...,
I wish you all a wonderful Valentine’s Day...  May your heart be filled with love and love only....  Hugs.

Indonesian ladies @An Phu
GG girlfriends without the bride
Anyong-haseyo.... Moshi moshi...

1 comment:

  1. Awww.... Am touched with your sharing! So amazing that we met in Saigon, and the instant connection and friendship that we build till now. I like that u mentioned about El Bulli, it is one of my bucket lists "to experience". But I heard it is closed for now. If you have any info about the restaurant, pls let me know!

    Happy Valentine to you & your beau! I have recently found mine and I am absolutely swept away by him... For once, I can feel what's truly being loved & cared.... I am very happy & blessed.

    Sherlyn Chong

    Miss you and hope to see you soon!