Mimi Tran Thi My rips from a couple of fresh mint leaves and enjoys a whiff before handing them out. “Good for your mojito, right?” she asks.
It’s 9 am on a hot day in August. Mimi is guiding a crowd along the bustling, smacking Central Market in Hoi An, the city on Vietnam’s central coast, considered the nation’s food capital.
She’s hosting a cooking class hosted by the Red Bridge Cooking School, and she is keeping their guests entertained with, in this instance, five Britons as well as an Australian couple who are taking breaks from their cycling trip and a tall family of seven people from the Netherlands is not a simple task.
However, Mimi will have everyone eating out of her hand as she offers information on food and cooking, including the best way to determine if mangosteens are ripe and the skin should be shiny and deep purple, to what distinguishes male crabs from female crabs – ladies have larger abdomens.
The Red Bridge Cooking School course includes a Hoi An’s Central Market tour.
“This Vietnamese five-aroma spice is the best,” she claims. “They are far superior to the ones produced in China that contain MSG [a flavor enhancer called monosodium glutamate and makes you thirsty.
“And don’t say yummy – it means horny.” The group laughs.
Mimi Tran Thi My of the Red Bridge Cooking School in Hoi An.
“Mimi should have her TV show,” says 28-year-old Jamie, who hails from Norwich and travels across the nation with his two friends.
“Bloody Good, Bloody Cheap” is a great title. Mimi often uses it, and it’s a good choice. Once your brain has adjusted to the dazzling denominations that make up the Dong currency, the currency used in Vietnam, it becomes apparent how much it can go, and tourists notice.
According to a report from Google Destination Insights, Vietnam was the seventh most searched-for destination from March through June. It was the only one within Southeast Asia in the top 20. The new visa rules implemented in August, which increase the validity of e-visas from 30 up to 90 days, are anticipated to increase the number of tourists visiting the country.
An Hoi An river boat ride provides a peaceful getaway. Photo: Kylie Knott
The market tour finished the market; then it’s on the boat for a 20-minute trip through the Thu Bon River to the cookery school. The school is set in 8000 square meters (2 acres) of plantations, fruit trees, and a carpet of tropical flowers.
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In an outdoor pavilion, Mimi competes against a crowd of cicadas while she cooks meals based on ingredients from the local market and in her gardens.
Its “to make” menu includes fresh rice paper rolls topped with shrimp (banh cuon), Fresh Quang Nam-style rice noodles with chicken (mi Quang ga), and two sauces: a zingy and tangy fish sauce (nuoc mam), and a peanut sauce (sot Tuong Dai).
Mimi Tran Thi My Mimi Tran Thi My, under her pavilion at the Red Bridge Cooking School, is preparing to flip a crispy pancake. Photo: Kylie Knott
The other option is Hoi An pancakes ( banh xeo), served with pork, shrimp, and other herbs.
Mimi claims that the pancake is among Hoi An’s most popular dishes. It has slight influences from Japan, China, and the West.
This is the reason why you should try them all; however, be aware that the evening crowds at the City’s Ancient Town, a Unesco-listed World Heritage site that blends wooden Chinese shophouses with French colonial architecture, are often chaotic as visitors rush to take pictures of the glimmering streets and boats. Some restaurants will have a wait; however, patience will pay off.
When visiting Hoi An, Vietnam, take a bite of white rose dumplings from Hoi An’s White Rose Restaurant.
The following dishes were among the highlights of our trip to Hoi An:
White rose dumplings
These rice paper bags of delight are filled with shrimp or pork and then lightly steamed to form crimped edges. They are a specialty of the region. Although they are sold in restaurants all across Hoi An, white rose dumplings ( banh bao banh vacuum) are named because they resemble roses originating from one location, The White Rose Restaurant.
The dumplings were served with a sauce of fish to dip in and then topped with crispy onions. The dumplings were a delight, though a little oily. Watching a group of women behind the restaurant carefully make their dumplings dumplings was a great enjoyment. “We roll about 5,000 dumplings a day,” one of them says. One.
White Rose Restaurant, 533 Hai Ba Trung, Phuong Cam Pho, Hoi An, Quang Nam, Vietnam.
Miss Ly Cafe is famous for its cao lau.