SavoryGirl’s Cooking School Adventure in Vietnam

Mung beans are added, then excess oil is drained

I love taking cooking classes when I travel...you learn so much about the food culture and usually get to try lots of foods all at once.  This class took that last part to the extreme!  It's Ms. Vy's Cooking Class in Hội An and it's held at the Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant and Cooking School. Honestly, I'd call this more of an eating class than a cooking class and it was pretty amazing. We did actually cook a few things...one being bánh xèo which is one of my favorite dishes I tried during my entire week in Vietnam! Even if you don't get to take the cooking class, I'd strongly encourage checking the restaurant out...everything is delicious and it's truly like you are at a street food fair with a million different options to try, but all cooked right there in the restaurant. Great way to check a lot of foods off your list if you're running out of time on your trip or a bit nervous about street food. Let's get cooking and eating! NoodleMaking First we learned how to make all different types of rice noodles...starting with the rice flour and water paste and cooking it up until it becomes a gummy dough.  Quite the cool and very quick process when you see the pros do it...there's a specific mixing method with two wooden dowels to get it to the right consistency, definitely more of an art than a science which was fun to learn about. Then we got to have a little noodle slice-off to see for ourselves just how difficult it is to hand cut noodles to the exact right thickness as quickly as the women teaching us were doing it.

Hilarity ensued...trust me, we were not good at this! I'm surprised they let us anywhere near a knife for the rest of the class after this experiment.  We also learned how to capture, fold and grab noodles coming out of the machine for thin rice noodles. You'd think since a machine is doing some of the work it would be pretty easy, but definitely a very specific technique here too.  We were much better at this, but takes some focus and real hand-eye coordination to get the little folded packets of noodles just right!
The Bánh Mì to End All Bánh Mì
Our Banh Mis about to get taken down...with beer...at 10:30 in the morning

Wow. Just wow. You know, you have to be careful with expectations when you travel.  Sometimes you build things up so much in your mind and expect the food and ingredients to be so much better than what you've had that you set yourself up for disappointment. I am here to tell you that I fully believe that is impossible to do with this Bánh Mì in Hội An. It. Is. Amazing. But be forewarned...so amazing it may ruing all other Bánh Mì for years to come.
Eating My Way Through Hanoi!

The streets of Hanoi

Oh, Hanoi! Hanoi! How I totally fell in love with this city! Honestly, it was completely unexpected...so much so that Katherine and I were lamenting as we planned out trip about how we were wasting a night in Hanoi because of our Halong Bay boat cruise instead of using that extra night in Saigon or Hội An. What was wrong with us?! Why did all of our friends tell us there was nothing in Hanoi and it would be fine if we skipped it?! I'm here to tell you, don't fall for that...Hanoi is amazing. There is the beautiful mix of French Colonial and Vietnamese architecture, a gorgeous European style promenade around the centrally located Hoàn Kiếm Lake, the air is cooler and less humid, the people are even friendlier and more fun-loving than everywhere else in Vietnam (which I honestly didn't think was possible) and the food is some of the best I had in all of Vietnam.

Oh, the food! This is where it gets tricky.  Since Katherine and I did end up with only one night (16 hours including sleeping time to be exact) in Hanoi as soon as I started researching the food I knew we had a problem on our hands. Too much food and too little time! But Katherine was a trooper and let me drag her all over the city to have not one, but three dinners plus street food plus another spot for dessert. Yeah, I get a little crazy when it comes to experiencing an amazing place through food...but trust me the marathon foodie sprint was worth it! So let's get eating... BunCha First up is the not-to-be-missed Bun Cha! Bun Cha is my new favorite Vietnamese dish that has fatty grilled pork, white rice noodles, herbs, a delectable mixture of pickled garlic and chilis and a slightly sweet dipping sauce. I mean honestly, this pickled garlic and chili component alone had me distracting my fellow diners with my groans of enjoyment as I ate! This was our first dish of the evening...and we knew we had a few more spots to hit after this so we were really trying to restrain ourselves and not eat it all but we just couldn't.  We slurped up every last bit smiling the entire time. The crispy spring rolls too...some of the best I had while in Vietnam.
Eating My Way Through Saigon!

The Streets of Saigon

Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, whatever you call it, this place really took me by surprise! Why? Well I think I had baggage...you know, like the kind you have in relationships? That. From my trip to Thailand over 5 years ago. You see, I kind of hated Bangkok.  I've realized by now that I need to give it another shot but that first time I was miserable. It was so incredibly hot and humid but we didn't have much money so we tried to walk everywhere. The air was filled with dust and the incessant sound of motorbikes gunning for your life felt like it was boring a hole in my skull. So no, I didn't love Bangkok and for whatever reason I kind of assumed Saigon would be pretty similar. But it's not at all! It's much smaller and quieter and slower with more air to breathe.  Still a hectic city, but more like a San Francisco than a New York which suits me just perfectly. So yes, Saigon pleasantly surprised me and started my 1-week whirlwind trip through Vietnam perfectly. The people were fantastic and the food was everything I dreamed it would be and more.

So, about that food...let's get on with my photo culinary journey through Saigon! If you recall, I had a very aggressive foodie itinerary, which you can see here, and while I'm incredibly proud of the damage Katherine and I did there are still lots of local treats on that list that I'll need to check off on my next trip. That being said we did pretty well...sometimes eating upwards of 5 meals in one day! The locals often doubted us as we ordered and we often proved them wrong. Don't let our petite size fool you, Katherine and I are can put it down! Thank God for that because the food in Vietnam is simply incredible...there is no other word for it. Fresh and simple yet complex all at the same time. Some dishes have simply been ruined for me forever back in the States...like banh mi. Oh my, the banh mi was out of this world. But I'm getting ahead of myself, you'll have to read my upcoming Banh Mi post for that!

Let's start our journey here in Saigon...and if this makes you hungry and curious about visiting Vietnam yourself make sure to check out all of my favorite photos from the whole Vietnam trip here as well as my Hanoi post, my An Hoi Cooking Class post and my Banh Mi posts all soon to be published. Happy visual feasting!   FirstBreakfast This was our very first breakfast and meal in Vietnam. It was at a place locals recommended called Quan An Ngon which is super fun because the owner essentially designed it around bringing all the famous street vendor foods together under one roof.  So things you typically can only find in Northern or Central Vietnam you can find here...and for those of you squeamish about eating street food this is a great way to try it all without the risk. So what did our first meal consist of? Clockwise from the top left we have bánh cuốn with Cha Ca dipping sauce, Shredded Pork Skin and Broken Rice & Grilled Pork Breakfast. I wish I knew what that rectangular thing encased in yellow was in that last picture because it was freaking delicious, but try as we might we just couldn't get an answer we could understand. The bánh cuốn was amazing...the rice sheets were so delicate and thin and the vegetarian filling was so flavorful. Then there was the side of pork skin...boiled, not fried yet with such a unique and fabulous texture.  We couldn't get enough of this stuff!
SavoryGirl’s Guided Food Tour of Seoul

SavoryGirl in Seoul



Welcome to the 5th and last post in my South Korea foodie travel series! For a quick recap in case you missed some, the first was my South Korea Foodie Itinerary that I created prior to heading on my trip, then upon return I shared a quick teaser summary with highlights from both my Vietnam and South Korea trip. Then I dove a bit deeper with a post that allowed you to follow me, Eating My Way Through South Korea and finally shared a video of SavoryGirl Exploring the Noryangin Fish Market and eating live baby octopus. This last one highlights a food tour that I took while in Seoul and is honestly one of my favorites in the series...read on and I think you'll see why!

To be perfectly honest, I've never done a food tour before since I fancy myself pretty expert in this space myself (check out all of my foodie itineraries here), but since I was solo in a big city who's culture around food is all around being social and sharing I thought this might be the perfect time to try one out.  And, wow! I honestly might do one of these every time I go to a major new city in the future. What a great experience...not only for the behind the scenes spots and foods you get to experience, but for a glimpse into the true food culture and all of the great insight you get from a local, particularly if you're chatty like me! You even learn how to pronounce things and what proper manners are related to food and alcohol which can be incredibly helpful as you continue your travels throughout the region on your own afterwards. If interested, I did the Korean Night Dining Tour with O'ngo Food Communications and would highly recommend it. NakwonMarket Onto the first stop of the food tour...Nakwon Market, which strangely enough I can't find any information on anywhere online. This is not the Nakwon Music Arcade, but instead an underground food and cooking supplies market in the Insadong neighborhood.  It has a great mix of food & house ware markets combined with an abundance of spots to eat, where it appeared lots of business men came after work to enjoy.  Doesn't that handmade tofu look just delicious?! And a foreign market just wouldn't be complete without a shot of some kind of animal head! All ready for our Korean BBQ meal on our tour! Now onto Korean BBQ! This is why the food tour was perfect for me, no way could I order this all by myself! And while I've certainly had it in the States, it was important to me to try it out in Korea and I'm glad I did. It was certainly similar, but so delicious.  And I learned all about how to properly layer and wrap everything and make sure it all fits in one neat bite (did you know that?  I didn't!).  I also didn't know that the different lettuces you get are for different purposes...so there's lettuce for the outer wrapper, but then there are also Perilla leaves which are a bit thicker and more coarse and have a lovely mint/arugula flavor.  So our guide taught us to layer that on top of the lettuce, then smear the doenjang (Korean bean paste) and then layer in the meat  for a perfect bite. So yummy and educational!