Lately I’ve been learning all about Vietnamese food and have totally fallen in love with it. The fresh flavours, abundance of herbs and variety of sauces all make for fabulous dishes. So when I was invited to School of Wok for an afternoon of Vietnamese cooking, I couldn’t resist. Even better – it’s in Covent Garden, so off I went to discover a lovely cookery school just minutes away from the Covent Garden Piazza.
Our enthusiastic group was greeted by Nev, our teacher for the day, who explained our menu and set about demonstrating how we prepared our ingredients using the sharpest of knives. The school’s cleavers are amazingly light and super sharp, making chopping a dream. Definitely something for my Christmas list!
We prepared all these dishes from scratch. Our spring rolls were stuffed full of vermicelli, carrots, spring onions, Chinese wood ear mushrooms, pork and chicken mince, all well seasoned. I discovered that wrapping a spring roll can be quite a challenge. The right quantity of filling is crucial or your rolls end up looking like a plump little pillow, rather than elegantly elongated. We got the hang of it though and produced this plateful, to squeals of joy! My group were very pleased with our results.
Next up, the lemongrass beef. A mix of lemongrass, garlic, shrimp paste, fish sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar is melded into beef mince for all flavours to absorb. Smells kinda pungent at the time of making, let’s say that shrimp paste doesn’t have the nicest of aromas. But it does taste surprisingly good. We rolled out our mince into mini burgers and put it aside to fry later.
We also made Pho which is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with meat (chicken in this case) that’s served with handfuls of fresh herbs. And while we were finishing off in the spacious kitchen, our spring rolls appeared freshly cooked. All beautifully golden and ready to be sampled. Really delicious and a lot easier to make than I expected, it’s quite therapeutic all that wrapping, too.
On our return from the kitchen our preparation table had been transformed into a Vietnamese dining extravaganza, so we all sat down to tuck in.
And here’s the fabulous pho. A great broth that’s perfect for totally tailor-making to your taste. I added some of the chilli and lime dipping sauce that we made to give it a real nice bite.
Our lemongrass mini beef burgers came out beautifully and we dipped them liberally in the mix of fish sauce, lime juice, garlic and chilli.
An afternoon at School of Wok is so much fun, educational and will satisfy your appetite when you tuck in to the fruits of your labour at the end (with a glass or two of wine).
It’s a very hands-on experience where you really get to grips with your ingredients and prepare and cook everything yourself. It’s the best way really – I’m a very bad observer on cookery courses, I need to get stuck in. Nev, our teacher was knowledgeable and made it into a really enjoyable afternoon, too. And I learnt even more about the wonderful food of Vietnam…gathering new recipes for my repetoire always makes me excited. A wonderfully entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
School of Wok is at 61 Chandos Place, Covent Garden