There’s no two ways about it – Hoi An’s central market is an assault on the senses first thing in the morning. The market is a raucous mess of colour – the blue scales of a fish, the bright yellow of dried cao lao noodles, the pale pink of a recently plucked chicken, and of course, the bright and unmistakable green of morning glory, the famous Vietnamese vegetable after which the restaurant that I am attending my cooking class at is named.
Hoi An Central Market
Morning Glory and its sister restaurant ‘The Market’ are located in the heart of Hoi An. My six-hour crash course in Vietnamese cooking began at the market, where under the guide of a restaurant shopper and chaperon, I sampled fresh Vietnamese vegetables (“Morning glory tastes like…what do you call it…cilantro!”- I assure you, it does not), and weaved in and out of colourful stalls offering a huge variety of fresh produce that I honestly believed was still squawking in a pen, firmly rooted in the ground, or swimming in the ocean the day before. If food is your thing, particularly Vietnamese food, Hoi An’s central market is mecca.
Crabs fresh from the sea!
Resisting the urge to touch the spiny legs of crabs bound by what appeared to be spring onion, or take a seat next to the man fashioning fresh noodles and what must have been world-record breaking speed, I joined the group in departing the market and migrated slowly to The Market Restaurant in the steamy morning heat.
In the cool restaurant foyer, sweaty travellers of all ages and backgrounds sat at the cafeteria-style benches and shared tall bottles of icy water whilst watching experts work various cooking stations lining the white walls. After a boost in hydration, we moved around the room in small groups to watch each dish being prepared.
In one corner, whole ducks with beaks still attached were held over a flaming grill. In the opposite corner, purple shallots were being sliced at the speed of lightening and deep fried to create that delicious crunchy topping that can be found on top of any bowl of phở bờ or papaya salad. Just before the lunch rush starts and the carefully constructed dishes we watched be created disappear out the door, our group is called upstairs to begin our lesson.
Ms. Vy is the third generation owner of the cooking school that operates within Morning Glory and The Market, as well as both restaurants, and has done so now for over seventeen years. The school offers four very different kinds of culinary experiences for all different levels of kitchen prowess, three of which lead students from the market to mastering their own stovetop.
During my class, I had the opportunity to prepare cabbage leaf parcels with shrimp mousse in broth (looked complicated but came out an instagrammer’s delight!), BBQ chicken and lime leaf, a traditional Vietnamese mango salad, and banh xeo – gorgeous, crispy pancakes local to Hoi An, stuffed full of pork, spring onion, shrimp and beansprouts.
Trying everything you have cooked is the biggest treat!
Ms. Vy provided excellent, clear instructions for those of us who were not so light of hand but made sure that our dishes were very much our own, and finished the lesson by handing out booklets detailing the recipes that our last few hours were devoted to, so that students could attempt to reconstruct their work in the safety of their own kitchens. The class finished with all involved heading down to the restaurant to enjoy the fruits of our labor with a cold Biere Larue, to exchange our favourite tips and destinations from our various paths.
As Morning Glory and The Market become increasingly famous as restaurants in their own right (The white rose shrimp dumplings at Morning Glory are possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten…
The amazin white rose shrimp dumplings
I would recommend that anyone who has an interest in seeing behind the curtains of these wonderful restaurants and stepping behind of a steaming pot or a sizzling fry pan, ask immediately after a delicious lunch about the next opportunity to partake in one of the school’s classes. From market to banquet, Morning Glory encapsulates all that a traveler would ever want from Hoi An’s foodie scene.
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