I was lucky enough to meet a local girl, Thuy, while travelling in Hue, Vietnam. She invited me to her aunty & uncles house for a cooking lesson and dinner, my last afternoon in Hue. It was a fantastic experience to pick up some local culinary skills as well as get an insight into the family lifestyle of the Vietnamese.
Thuy, her aunty, cousin and I convened in the small kitchen space at the back of the house. Fresh rice paper squares where piled on a damp cloth and vermicelli noodles tipped into a bowl of water to soak. Then I was set to work. Thuy and her cousin washed and prepared vegetables for the salad, while Thuy’s aunty showed me how to prepare each ingredient for the spring rolls, before leaving me to slice, dice and mix the aromatic flavours together. This recipe for spring rolls came from Hanoi and was a local recipe. It was where Thuy’s aunty had grown up and it was one of her favourite recipes to cook. With all of us girls in the kitchen, the cooking lesson dissolved in waves of giggles on more than one occasion, as my questions were lost in translation or as their questions about my lack of a boyfriend or husband became increasingly personal.
Once the preparation was finished, we began assembling spring rolls and cooking them. Getting the amount of filling right and then folding them correctly took a few tries, but once I’d worked out the tricks to getting the edges folded on them, I was off and rolling. Once cooked our delicious smelling spring rolls were plated up on a bed of lettuce and placed on the straw floor mat in the living room. Along with a big pot of rice, salad and a pork and potato dish the girls had cooked up as well. Sharing a meal on the floor of their home was great fun. Thuy’s uncle spent the evening trying to jokingly marry me off to his ten year old son and the girls giggled their way through reliving the adventures of my cooking class that afternoon with the rest of the family.
As with most meals shared with friends, there was enough food to feed an army, but they insisted I keep eating. Not wanting to be rude to their hospitality, I obliged, eating until I couldn’t move. I’d had a wonderful time with my new friends and was genuinely sad when the evening came to an end. Photos were taken, hugs given, before hopping on my bicycle and rolling all the way back to my hostel.
Nem eum - Hanoi Spring Rolls
Vermicelli noodles Spices
Pork mince Fish Sauce
Shitaki mushrooms Sprouts
Shallots 2 Eggs
Half a carrot diced Lemon/lime
Rice paper squares Sugar
Soak noodles. Drain. Cut into small pieces. Fry mushrooms and spices then take off the heat. Stir into noodles. Stir in pork mince, carrots, sprouts, shallots, eggs, fish sauce, lime juice and teaspoon of sugar. Place heaped tablespoon of mixture on rice paper and roll. Fry in pan on medium heat.
Crush garlic and chilli. Stir in sugar, lemon juice and fish sauce. Add water and stir together.