We survive a contest of sorts. Yesterday, we ate 23 courses of food. Over this fat day, we ate 3 courses for breakfast, 12 courses for lunch plus snacks, and another 8 courses for dinner. At the end of the long day, we slept victorious but bloated.
We enrolled in a Vietnamese cooking class not just to cook a lot of dish but also to eat all of them. Of the many classes offered in heavily-touristed Hoi Ann, we choose the Green Bamboo cooking school because the teacher named Van has each student cook a dish as opposed to watching a master chef do all the work.
A shuttle picked us up at 8am from our hard-to-find An Bang Beach Hideaway Homestay. The shuttle whisked twelve students to the bustling Hoi Ann central market where Greg and I lunched the previous two days. This time, we were here to shop. Our English-speaking, Vietnamese-born tour guide outfitted our scraggly group with matching conical straw hats – Aussies, Brits, one Spaniard named Xavier (rhymes with caviar), and one other American, a feisty Chicago woman named Lynn who likes beer as much as I do. Van bought shredded coconut, herbs, a purple banana blossom, nasty shrimp, and kilos and kilos of pork. Ensconced in the tour group, I could finally without shyness take pictures of produce and dead fish.
Armed with foodstuffs, we drove back to Van’s home to commence an orgy of cooking and eating that lasted, like Thanksgiving, all afternoon. I selected a shredded green mango salad for my dish, unaware that it included shrimp. Greg taught me how to shell courageously a disgusting bowl of gray shrimp. I shredded a banana blossom while Greg put together Hoi An’s famous Cao Lau (beef soup with noodles).
Each student finished cooking a dish, apportioned it on twelve plates, and passed it out to rest of the class. We ate everything in large quantities: spring rolls – fresh and fried, chicken satay, pancake, pho, cao lau, beef salad, shrimp salad, and fish cake. All dishes were excellent, each dish better than the previous. Late in afternoon, we staggered home.
Tragically, we pre-booked a 9-course home-cooked dinner delivered to our beach bungalow. We recuperated before our feast with a barefoot sunset walk along the beach past the new resort construction towards Da Nang. Our nine-course dinner, mercifully pared down to eight courses, was simple, honest, but not as good as the afternoon food bacchanal. Even more bloated, we split a little bottle of Fernet digestive, played a video game, and huddled under the mosquito net to slumber.