Often attendees will forget the speaker, the venue, all the small details we spend so much time on as event organisers, but they will remember the food! But what if cooking and eating were actually the event? Even better!
Two weeks ago I attended Vietnamese cooking class at School of Wok, an award winning Asian cookery school in London. I was invited by Nev the co-founder of the school to experience it for incentives and team buildings. Being a hobby cook myself I was delighted to experience a whole new world of flavours and take my cooking skills to the next level. Classes offer covers pretty much all of Asian cuisine, including Chinese, Korean, Thai, and also more specialised classes such as Dim Sum or wok, to mention a few.
The school is located in Covent Garden, short walking distance from China Town where the school sources all its ingredients. The Vietnamese class I chose is a whole day class, starting from 10.30 until 16.30 with plenty time for learning, eating and socialising but they also offer shorter classes.
Our morning started in the kitchen with preparing Chicken Pho in groups of 3 – 4 before moving to the main hall to learn about chopping. While our Chicken Pho was cooking, we started chopping and preparing our mise-en-place for the rest of the dishes on the menu: Vietnamese Summer Rolls, Beef in Betal Leaf and Char Grilled lemongrass Beef Banh Mi. We spend a lot of time learning cutting techniques and that reminds me of the book The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. The book is about a woman who decided to quit her corporate career and follow her long childhood dream and study in the prestigious cooking school Le Cordon Bleu. In the book they say that “with a dull knife, it’s true, you end up pressing too hard on the onion. This crushes the cells, causing volatile oils from the onion to be released, and it’s the oil that makes you cry… but with a very sharp knife, you do not have to push so hard with your knife, and that way less oil releases”. Our lovely teacher Mel gives us some tips with the onion. Don’t cut the root, you can cut it vertically and then in cubes, but keep the onion intact. Interestingly enough, the second co-owner of the school, Jeremy Pang, studied at Le Cordon Bleu but unfortunately I didn’t meet him to ask about other Le Cordon Bleu stories mentioned in the book.
Some of the Mise-en-place
Frying onion and ginger for Chicken Pho
Sharp knives and alcohol don’t go well together, so only when chopping is done for the day wine and beer are offered and greatly welcomed and we start rolling the spring rolls. Just before our Chicken Pho is ready, we quickly fry our beef in Betal Leaf and shortly after are ready to have our well-deserved, amazingly delicious, self-made lunch (humble brag)!
Our teacher Mel demonstrates cutting technique
Rolling Vietnamese Summer Rolls
Beef in Betal Leaf in the making
Best Chicken Pho!
After the break we are back in the kitchen and ready for a second round: the Banh Xeo Vietnamese Style Pancake and Chargrilled lemongrass Beef. To my surprise the pancakes are super easy to make and when ready crispy and can be perfectly paired with white wine or beer! During the time we prepare our pancakes, the meat is getting ready for our final dish – Chargrilled lemongrass Beef Bahn Mi. I am at the point I can’t eat any more – so take this one home with some more summer rolls.
Banh Xeo Vietnamese style pancakes easy to make, all you need is rice flour, plain flour, turmeric powder, salt, coconut cream & water! For filling take spring onion, bean sprouts, prawns or tofu & pair with white wine or beer
Char Grilled lemongrass Beef Banh Mi
I leave this class very satisfied with the whole experience. Haven’t been to Vietnam yet, I feel I have learned about the culture, I improved my cooking skills, tasted incredibly tasty and healthy food, met interesting people and most importantly had fun. Since they have so many classes on offer, I am sure to be back for more!