Vying for the best: Ms Vy’s #Cooking Class, #Hoian

I’ve been meaning to write about our fabulous market tour and cooking class that we did on our visit to Hoi An late last year.

There are a wide number of cooking classes and tours offered in Hoi An and we chose Ms Vy’s for it’s reputation and ease of access…it was walking distance from our hotel, the Anantara Resort. We chose the half day Holiday Masterclass which includes a market tour as well as tastings and demonstrations in Ms Vy’s market restaurant before the class.

Ms Vy is also the founder of the well known Morning Glory restaurants in Hoi An and has written the highly successful Taste Vietnam cookbook, as well as opening the Home of Hoi An restaurant in Melbourne, Australia.

We met up with the group of about 20 tourists at the restaurant to then board a boat for a trip down the river to the Hoi An market. We were split into 2 smaller groups for the market tour.

Here we were shown and explained the different seafood, vegetables, herbs, meat, poultry and even cooking utensils on sale. Whilst we had actually walked through the market earlier on our way to the restaurant, having a knowledgeable guide to introduce us to stall holders and their produce was great. We even got to taste the different herbs on sale and visit the butchery section which is a far cry from what we are used to in Australia! (mind you, it was all super clean and super fresh)It was great for photos and videos took s we were with the guide at stalls that had been pre-arranged to visit rather than feeling self-conscious about taking photos without permission.

We then returned to the restaurant where we cooled down with an icy cold drink, before being given a tour around the market restaurant “stalls” which showcase how different noodles are made, unusual ingredients such as tripe, pigs brain, snails, silkworms and frogs are used in Vietnamese cooking. We had the chance to sample these delicacies if we wanted and also to get hands-on having a go at making noodles. This was a fun and different aspect of the cooking class not offered by others.

After this we were taken upstairs to a very well set up cooking school, where we were given our own cooking stoves, equipment and ingredients to learn how to make cabbage and shrimp roll soup, ban Xeo pancakes, green mango salad and green mango salad.

The large mirror over the main stove at the front of the class meant we could all follow the demonstration by the Chef teacher, and her clear instructions and her jokes made the class lots of fun.

Our favourite was learning how to make the delicious Ban Xeo pancakes, including the tip to just buy the packet mix at home from Asian grocery shops to meal it really easy to make at home.

The experienced chef teaching us was excellent and of course we got to enjoy our efforts by eating it all.

We were given the recipes and a special Vietnamese chopping utensil as a special gift.

The entire experience went for about 5 hours from 8.30-1.30pm and was very well run. Great way to learn a bit more about Vietnamese cuisine, as well as a great market tour.

Here’s a link to their website:

https://tastevietnam.asia/vietnamese-cooking-classes-hoi-an

Home Finest, Saigon – a fine find indeed!

Managed to get a last minute booking into this highly recommended restaurant on TripAdvisor. It’s currently No 1 for Vietnamese food in Ho Chi Minh/Saigon and we can certainly attest to it’s well deserved reputation.

Set in a stunning modernist French Villa and with classic interior design of dark wood/black furniture, white walls, glass and plants everywhere, the restaurant draws you in from the moment you arrive.

Service is warm and welcoming. Anna who looked after us was very knowledgeable about the wine list and menu. She also told us a little about the villa and the local neighbourhood which was very interesting.

The food though is definitely a stand-out. We started with a deliciously hot-sour seafood soup, which was tart and tangy but mellower than a Thai Tom Yum, served elegantly in a coconut. We accompanied this with crispy pork and prawn wontons, served with a divine dipping sauce.

For mains we settled on stir fried duck with local basil and grilled eggplant with spring onion salsa with some plain rice. Both dishes were delicious with perfectly balanced flavours and complemented each other well. The crunchy peannuts in the eggplant dish really worked well with the silky texture of the steamed eggplant. (Anna made sure she checked with us at the start if we had any allergies. There is also an excellent vegetarian selection on the menu.)

We finished the meal by sharing the grilled banana rolls with sticky rice and delicious. Coconut cream sauce.

Going with a group to be able to sample more of the delectable menu is highly recommended …or just keep going back!!

Thanks again Anna and the team for a truly delicious dinner. We are looking forward to trying out Home Finest’s new restaurants in Hoi An and Hanoi as we continue our Vietnamese eating adventure.

Check out all details here: http://www.homefinestrestaurant.com

Durban Indian Meatballs in tomato curry sauce

This is another Durban comfort-food staple. It is often referred to as “lamb kebabs in chutney”. This curry is delicious with roti or rice and a dollop of cucumber raita.

I often make extra meatballs and freeze them as they can also be used as an appetizer, just grilled from frozen and served with a  Mint Chutney or Chilli Sauce on the side.
These meatballs can also be cooked with borlotti or cannellini beans for an Indian version of the Spanish dish of meatballs and beans in tomato sauce. Adding beans changes the texture of the gravy making it “more creamy” and much heartier than the basic tomato version.

Ingredients
Meatballs:

1 kg lamb or beef low fat mince
½ onion finely diced
4 cloves garlic and equivalent amount of fresh ginger peeled
1 teaspoon cummin powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2-3 fresh red chillies chopped finely (can be deseeded for less heat0
1/4 bunch of coriander finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons worth)
1 egg beaten
1 teaspoon of salt

To make meatballs:
Use a mortar and pestle to pound ginger and garlic into a paste.


In a large bowl, add mince and all other ingredients, including ginger and garlic. Add beaten egg last.
Mix well with your hands (I use disposable gloves), then form into medium size balls
Place on baking sheet lined with baking paper, put extras into a plastic container for freezing.
Heat oven to 170 degrees celsius and cook for 20 minutes or until just browned on the outside, cook for 5-10 minutes if serving as an appetiser. Taste test to see if cooked through so the meatballs don’t dry out too much.
If using from frozen, heat oven to 170 degrees Celsius, place frozen meatballs on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and cook as above. They might take slightly longer as they are cooking from frozen.

Tomato Curry Sauce

Ingredients:
1 onion finely diced
2 large fresh ripe tomatoes diced
1 handful of curry leaves
1 teaspoon cummin seeds
2 sticks of cinnamon (preferabley cinnamon bark available in Indian grocers but quills are fine if not)
3 cloves of garlic and equal amount of fresh ginger peeled
3/4 teaspoon chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cummin powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 cups chicken stock
Coriander to garnish
Vegetable oil

Method:
Heat vegetable oil in medium size heavy based pan which has a lid
Add cummin seeds, curry leaves and cinnamon sticks and heat gently until fragrant
Add onions and cook gently until transparent
Add ginger and garlic and heat through
Add all powdered spices: chilli powder, turmeric, cummin powder, salt and sugar and mix through for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, cooking for 2-3 minutes, stirring to avoid tomato mixture burning.

Add 1 cup chicken stock and bring to a boil, then lower heat and then simmer for 15 minutes, adding more chicken stock as required to make sure the tomatoes break down but don’t stick to the bottom. (*See below if you want to add borlotti or cannellini beans to your curry)


After 15 minutes, add the meatballs which have been cooked for about 20 minutes in the oven, add any juices from the baking sheet and more chicken stock or water to just cover meatballs and tomatoes.


Simmer for a further 10-15 minutes until tomatoes have broken up and a thick curry sauce is created.
Serve with hot rotis or white rice and cucumber raita.

Note:
Durban Indian Meatballs and Borlotti Beans Tomato curry.

For this version of the meatballs, add 1 can (400g) of borlotti beans or cannellini beans to the tomatoes after they have been cooking for about 5 minutes, add an additional ½ cup of chicken stock, and simmer mixture for another 15 minutes before adding the meatballs.

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Irish Sourdough Soda Bread

This looks like a great recipe for Irish Soda bread to go with my Irish Lamb Stew compliments of the intriguingly named Mouth Brothels blog….

It is St. Patrick’s Day and the most Irish bread I know is soda bread. Basically a bread made from baking soda, buttermilk, salt and flour, it was long a staple of thrifty homemakers. Soda bread is a quick bread with little kneading or rise time, so by adding my sourdough starter, I basically quadrupled […]

via Sourdough Rosemary Soda Bread — Mouth Brothels

Soulful style at Marvin in Washington DC

Marvin’s is a very cool bistro, bar and nightclub in Washington’s happening “U street corridor” on 14th Street NW. Established in 2007, the food is inspired by Marvin’s Gaye’s travels to Belgium and southern “soul” food he grew up with in America. The decore is contemporary but comfortable, making you feel instantly at ease. Understandable why it is such a favourite with the locals.

 

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Marvin restaurant inspired by Marvin Gaye

We had come to eat like the locals so started off with Chicken fried oysters and Shrimp ‘n Grits. The oysters were fried in a spicy batter and came with a remoulade, mayonnaise. They were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside making for a delicious contrast. The Shrimp had been cooked in tangy spices and were served with cheesy grits, jus from the shrimps and scattered with toasted almonds. (Grits are small broken corn grains that when are well are creamy almost like polenta.) The flavours from the shrimp enlivened the grits and made the dish extremely more-ish!

For entrees (mains) we chose the Pepper Crusted Hanger steak with green beans, shiitake mushrooms and  bordelaise sauce and Chicken and Waffles which was served with gravy, syrup and collard greens. I never thought I’d ever be caught eating waffles for dinner but I have to say the pairing was divine, especially with the sweetness of the accompanying sauces and the bitterness of the collard greens. The steak was very Belgian French in style, spiced with pepper and cooked perfectly to medium rare as requested.

Once again we had no room for the tempting dessert menu but I took a photo so you can see the delicious choices on offer.

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Dessert Menu at Marvin in Wsahington DC

After dinner we wandered upstairs to catch some tunes on the rooftop deck which was filled with a hipster crowd enjoying the cool sounds from the DJ.

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Excellent evening of food and entertainment. Plan to spend longer than you expect.

Portuguese pork and clam stew with roasted capsicum sauce

We used to have this dish at the Petersham Portuguese Chicken Shop and Restaurant in Sydney before it burnt down in a terrible fire. I have never made it at home but thought I’d try it out for something a bit different. I did a bit of research on the Internet and checked a variety of recipes, some with and without the capsicum paste, before deciding on this version. The stew comes from the Alentejan region of Portugal and is usually served with fried potatoes but can be served with crusty bread or plain rice.

Marinating the pork in the milk and wine overnight tenderises the pork and gives it a lovely almost silky texture when cooked. The roasted capsicum paste can be made the day before as well if you want and adds a sweetness and a subtle spiciness that compliments the natural saltiness of the clams. The clams can be replaced by cockles but purging them by soaking in water is important to remove any grit.

So, please note the time required for marinating the pork and purging the clams below.

Marinating time: 8 hours or preferably overnight
Purge clams: 2 hours soaking in water to remove any grit
Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 1. 5 hours (including roasting capsicum)

Ingredients:
Roast Capsicum Sauce:
2 medium size red capsicums
8 cloves of garlic unpeeled

Pork Marinade
500g pork belly rind removed and cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 cup milk
1/2 cup wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 tspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 tspoon salt

Stew:
4 eschallots thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic crushed
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup vermouth or dry sherry
1/2 cup capsicum paste
1-1.5 cup chicken stock or water
1 kg of clams soaked in water for 2 hours, washed and drained
1/2 bunch of thyme tied with kitchen string
500g marinated pork belly removed from marinade and patted dry on kitchen towel
chopped parsley to garnish

Method
Marinate pork belly pieces in milk, white wine, peppercorns, salt and bay leaves mixture overnight or at least 8 hours

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Marinate pork overnight

Cover clams with cold water and soak for 2 hours, changing water a few times to remove grit

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Drain clams after soaking for 2 hours in water

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius and roast whole capsicums and unpeeled garlic cloves sprayed with olive oil until capsicum blisters and starts to blacken, after 25 minutes raise heat to maximum to blacken capsicum if necessary, turn capsicums through roasting process. Remove from oven and place capsicums, not garlic, in a plastic bag and tie a knot in it. The heat from the capsicums will create a little steam bag and make the skins peel off easily when you take them out. Skin, reseed and chop the capsicum flesh. Peel and chop garlic. Blitz capsicum and garlic in a small food processor to create a paste.

Heat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

Heat half the oil in an non-stick frying pan and fry pork pieces on high heat to brown on all sides. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.

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Fry pork to brown

Heat other half of the oil in a heavy based casserole pot, then add eschallots and garlic and cook slowly until onions are translucent.

Add pork and 1/2 cup capsicum paste, vermouth or sherry to onion mixture in pot and place in oven, uncovered for 30 minutes.

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Stew pork in oven for 30 minutes uncovered

Add clams, stock and thyme. Cover pot and put back in oven for 15-20 minutes or until clams open.

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Add clams, stock and thyme

Remove thyme, garnish with parsley and serve with potatoes, rice or bread and a crisp, green salad.

Serves 4