Starting in Hanoi
Vietnamese cuisine is healthy and sophisticated, with innumerable regional recipes. Explore this exquisite gastronomic world, from the copious dishes of the north to the imperial specialities of the centre. In Hanoi, a trip in a cycle rickshaw will transport you to the hustle and bustle of the old quarter. Your first day is devoted to touring the French colonial buildings, including the Beaux-Arts Museum, then the Temple of Literature, a Confucian mausoleum with an old-fashioned charm.
On the following morning, head for Hanoi Cooking Centre, where you will be served a cup of green tea while you wait. Your culinary exploration of Hanoi can then begin.
Hanoi Cooking Centre
44 Châu Long
Trúc Bạch, Ba Đình
+84 24 3715 0088
All the secrets of Vietnamese cuisine
A Vietnamese chef from the cooking centre will accompany you to the famous Chau Long market. With your senses awakened, you wander amongst the stalls of exotic fruits, seafood and aromatic herbs. As you go, fill up your basket with fresh produce which will be used during your cookery lesson planned for the afternoon. Feel free to sample some local curiosities such as the durian, a tasty fruit, but with an extraordinary smell!
Take a seat on one of the tiny, traditional plastic stools, and sample your first phở. You will adore this fragrant soup, which is a mixture of beef stock, strips of meat and noodles, all flavoured with herbs and spices.
Return to the Hanoi Cooking Centre. In a relaxed atmosphere, you take a cookery course in English, designed by chef Tracey Lister, the author of a book on Vietnamese street cuisine. Your teacher will allow you to choose three traditional dishes from North Vietnam. In a small group, you embark upon the creation of spring rolls, caramelised fish or a sweetcorn soup sweetened with coconut. Follow the advice of the head chef and reveal your creative talent. After you have completed your dishes, you can enjoy them accompanied by a local beer. Delighted with your day, you leave with your recipes under your arm.
For dinner, make your way to the Hoan Kiem neighbourhood, the location of Wild Rice, a fancy restaurant based inside an opulent colonial house. The restaurant is famous for its Vietnamese classics, reinvented with a modern twist. In its minimalist decor adorned with Vietnamese objets d'art (artworks), you can enjoy roast vegetables with a coconut sauce and wild rice. Superb.
Wild Rice Restaurant
6 Ngô Thì Nhậm
+84 24 3943 8896
Imperial flavours in Huế
You are off to Huế. You arrive early in the morning in the country's historic birthplace. The Perfume River crosses the former Vietnamese capital, its soothing presence emanating through the small tree-lined backstreets. To soak in its glorious past, make your way to the Imperial Citadel. Discover this architecture heavily inspired by the Chinese style, but with the yellow walls typical of Vietnam. Marvel at the ornamental richness of the Palace of Supreme Harmony, where formal events were celebrated.
Huế is a proud and noble city, with a sophisticated cuisine which appeals to discerning palates, and reflects the country's rice farming tradition. Spring rolls and nem rolls were invented in this city. Head for the Hong Mai restaurant, a stone's throw away from the Imperial Citadel, for a participatory experience. This unpretentious establishment offers two delicious local specialities: nem lui and bánh khoai.
You will take matters into your own hands and make your nem rolls. Take a sheet of rice paper in the palm of your hand and place some roast minced pork, herbs and a few vegetables in it. Remove the lemon grass stick, and roll it all up, before dipping it into an irresistible peanut sauce called nước lèo. In a state of bliss, repeat this operation until your hunger is satisfied. With your sweet tooth, you will not be able to resist ordering a bánh khoai, a delicious cake made from grated cassava, sugar and coconut milk.
110, Đinh Tiên Hoàng
Thành phố Huế
+84 234 3535 046
Spicy soup in a majestic city
In the afternoon, as you stroll through the old quarter, you will be intoxicated by the mouth-watering smells. Women are selling bánh bèo, bánh nậm and bánh bột lọc, different types of rice and tapioca balls filled with meat or shrimp. The Vietnamese adore these little snacks which take the place of full meals. Amongst the street food stands, you absolutely must try bún bò – not to be confused with the famous bò bún salad –, Huế 's most famous dish. You may perspire somewhat as you taste these spicy dishes of white noodles immersed in stock, garnished with sautéed beef and crudités. A real feast!
Before leaving the city, treat yourself to a private dinner at an exclusive venue: Tha Om Garden House. The owner of the establishment will show you around his sumptuous villa, a former mandarin's house restored with taste. Then, you come to the table for an elegant dinner. Waitresses in traditional dress bring in eight deliciously fragrant, traditional dishes. After this exceptional meal, you leave with a little present of preserved ginger.
Tha Om Garden House
12/12, Đường Kim Long
Thành phố Huế
+84 234 3527 810
Cookery classes in a famous school in Hội An
Your gastronomic journey comes to an end in Hội An, on the central Vietnamese coast. The perfectly preserved old city, crisscrossed by canals, will awaken your romantic side. You will love strolling through the pedestrianised streets of this open-air museum. Shops and Chinese temples with yellow facades and Vietnamese tube houses made from jackfruit wood create a harmonious ensemble. Make a detour to the street of Phan Bội Châu, lined with pretty French colonial buildings.
Get ready to experience another high point of your trip. A 25-minute crossing of the river Thu Bồn by boat takes you to the Red Bridge cookery school, standing in the middle of a lush garden. Before your cookery course, you go to visit the herb garden, essential ingredients in any Vietnamese recipe, and then the school's vegetable garden. You can then slip on your apron. A chef will show you how to prepare the legendary phở, before allowing you to reproduce his recipe. He will then introduce you to the art of vegetable carving which adds an aesthetic touch to your dish. At the end of the lesson, rather proud of your creation, all that remains is for you to enjoy this uniquely aromatic meal in the restaurant overlooking the river.
Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School
Quảng Nam Province
+84 235 3933 222