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Vietnamese Street Food Class at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease

June 18, 2013

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My friends Liz and Lesley suggested doing a cookery course for my (April) birthday treat with them and out of the suggestions they came up with, I chose Vietnamese Street Food at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease. I chose this as it’s so different to the kind of food I usually cook – Italian, French, Spanish-Moorish – and although I haven’t been to Vietnam I’ve eaten in London Vietnamese restaurants and like the food. Also, wasn’t ‘street food’ going to be fun with two friends? The first available slot we could all make was last night.

We were asked to arrive by 7.50 for the class to start at 8.00 and the evening was to last 2 hours. The idea is, you get shown how to make various dishes, do the cooking and then eat what you’ve cooked. When we arrived we were offered a complimentary drink and each chose wine; if you wanted more, then there was a charge, but we didn’t have extra as the glasses were quite big and once we were chopping with sharp Japanese knives, not drinking too much alcohol seemed a good idea! There were lockers for our bags and coats and aprons to put on.

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I didn’t count how many of us there were … about 20? Everything had been well set up around cooking stations and ingredients and equipment laid out ready. We all gathered round the cooking area when it was time to begin and were cheerfully greeted in a rather ‘Jamie’ way by the tutor. Cooking was done in stages. We were shown how to grind some spices to be mixed with some pork for meatballs. We were told to work in pairs and I got chopping with a seriously sharp knife while Lesley started pounding away with the pestle and mortar. Then the spices and herbs – chilli, lemon grass, garlic – were mixed with the pork mince to make the meatballs. The tutor explained that you should put them into cold oil rather than hot so the ingredients caramelised rather than burnt and got bitter.

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The next dish was summer rolls. We watched the tutor show us how to achieve thin julienne strips of vegetables: carrot, mooli, spring onion, cucumber. The spring roll wrappers had to be soaked in cold water for about a minute or two to soften. At the same time a dipping sauce was made: chilli, garlic, rice wine, fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar put into water that was left bubbling away for a time.

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Again we got chopping. We were given some cooked king prawns to go in the rolls too and some cooked vermicelli noodles to mix with the vegetables, and some fresh herbs to chop and add. We each wrapped up our own summer roll (summer rather than spring on this occasion because it’s summer – well, in theory!). There was a good deal of laughing and banter about how each of us managed to handle the sticky thin wraps and achieve a good looking summer roll. Meanwhile, Liz and her partner’s meatballs were caramelising a good deal better than Lesley’s and mine so I quietly turned the heat up.

The third dish was pho soup. We had pak choi to cut up to go into a bowl; were given thin strips of beef to lay on top. The beef broth had been made in advance by the tutor and was ladled on for us at the last moment. The tutor had earlier told us how to make the broth and then add spices – things like star anise, cloves, coriander seeds – for just the last half hour so they didn’t become bitter. The final demonstration was putting everything together ready to serve and then we followed with our own.

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We thought ours looked pretty good. And we were definitely very hungry by this time! We moved everything to benches and tables to eat and settled in for our supper.

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I have to say we weren’t totally happy. The summer rolls were too big and hard to handle and broke up as soon as you bit into them, making them difficult to eat and dip in the sauce. They would have been better smaller. The meatballs were nice, served with some of the vermicelli noodles on lettuce leaves, but the pho soup was a disappointment and none of the three of us ate much of it. There was far too strong a taste of cloves which completely overpowered the flavour. It was also fatty and I got the fatty taste on the first mouthful, which was quite unpleasant. You could see a layer of fat on the top of the soup. It obviously hadn’t been cooled properly and the fat taken off before the spices added and reheated to serve.

However, we had enjoyed a fun evening; it was a nice thing to do with friends and we thought we should do more courses together. The Recipease course was set up well, and we were given a couple of good cooking tips along the way, but it was definitely a basic course and not something for the accomplished cook. It’s a shame a few little details spoiled the eating at the end. It would also have been nice to have been given a copy of the recipes. These were sent by email to Liz – who had booked – after the course and she forwarded them to Lesley and me, but I can’t open mine. It’s a huge attachment that upset my computer this morning and after a couple of tries I gave up.

One Comment
  1. I’d be a little disappointed, too.

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