We had the opportunity to partner up with Hoian Eco Coconut Tour (via sponsorship) offering a three part tour in the Hoi An area of Vietnam. This is our detailed review of the third part of the Eco Tour & Cooking Class featuring a kid and allergen friendly cooking class covering Vietnamese cuisine.
First off, let me just admit that our family had never taken a cooking class before. Yes, it seemed challenging with two kids under 10 years of age, a husband that didn't eat meat, and a food allergy all happening in a country where we didn't speak the language. But...we all agreed that this was going to be an adventure of a lifetime, and the Kid Allergy Travel family was all committed to taking on this challenge in Vietnam. Were we a little overzealous? Was it possible to make this work? Could this particular Cooking School work around our restrictions in a group tour setting? Read below to find out!
Part III: Vietnamese Cooking Class
Arrival to Cooking School
The arrival to the Cooking School and final portion of the Eco Tour & Cooking Class experience is a grand one. You are greeted by the mouth of a golden dragon
Everyone is placed at a table and asked to suit up in chef attire consisting of a puffy hat and apron. The kids totally loved this and it really helped get our children excited to begin the cooking portion of the tour.
Some food is pre-prepped and wrapped already sitting at the chef's preparation station.
Before we began our class, there is a bit of distress coming from another table of folks. Someone spotted a cat and there were tears. The Tour Guides immediately locked the pets away to avoid any more discomfort from guests.
Once all the commotion has settled down, we are asked to join one of two long tables to begin our lessons from the instructor.
The pace begins quite rapidly. If there was an introduction by the teacher, I guess I missed it maybe wrangling the two kids to a suitable spot.
I politely mention to our instructor that our son must eat gluten free because of an allergy and that my husband has a dietary preference of no meat. She nods.
With that, we were all ready to begin!
Preparing the Appetizer
First up: begin chopping vegetables that will be used for the first and second courses: Fresh Spring Rolls and Banh Xeo.
As you can see in the picture above, the knife we are given is gigantic. Like HUGE. Thankfully, the five-year-old quickly realizes that task isn't for him, and I spend the next few minutes reminding Kid Allergy to take his time and keep an eye on his fingers while chopping those scallions.
Next, we are asked to prepare the rice paper. I am introduced to a tool I had never seen before and I make a mental note for a rice paper wetter for when we return back home. This ingenious little kitchen tool was pretty darn awesome. It was perfect for getting the right amount of moisture on the rice paper making it easier to manipulate and fold in all the goodies inside the Fresh Spring Rolls.
Unfortunately, no amount of water or help from a handy kitchen accessory could aid my sad wrapping skills. Obviously, I am a newbie here! Glad the recipe included tasty ingredients and the presentation didn't mar the incredible taste of the dish.
Fresh Spring Rolls.
This dish along with the dipping sauce both passed the #nimatest with our Nima Sensor portable gluten tester. No Gluten Found!
Remember, fish sauce can sometimes contain gluten. Hoian Eco Coconut Tour was careful to provide a gluten free version. When traveling around Southeast Asia, however, please be cautious that this is not always a gluten free product.
By the time we sat and waited the couple of minutes it took to test the roll and the sauce, we had to eat rather quickly to get right back up for the next round.
Cooking the Next 3 Courses
We began preparing for the next three dishes: Papaya Salad with Shrimp and Crackers, Banh Xeo Rice Pancake with Fresh Salad, and Chicken/Fish in a Clay Pot with Steamed Rice.
This was where the little one could really begin to help. He had a great time filling the pancake with the fresh chopped veggies and both kids loved stirring the garlic and ginger for the sauces.
All was going well for the whole Kid Allergy Travel family. We had finally found our groove. The kids were having a blast being part of the experience when...just like that...my youngest son tells me he has to use the restroom.
I left my husband and Kid Allergy to do the work of 4 while I wandered off to take the five-year-old to the potty.
On the upside, the toilet facilities are really clean and nicely appointed at the Cooking School. This, of course, is always something appreciated by families with small children!
As I am standing right outside the toilet, I peer across the water and watch the rain slowly fall. I can also see that there is some exciting cooking action happening but am missing it because everyone has their backs turned covering my view.
It was somewhere around this time that I begin pondering why I hadn't inquired about the opportunity to secure a private cooking class instead of a group one. With the food allergy, the no meat restriction, and the fact that a five and ten year old are just slower than all the rest, I do see how perhaps this probably would've been a good idea. I guess these are things I glossed over when booking. The Kid Allergy Travel family had never actually taken a cooking class together before and it seems I might have over estimated the reality of juggling all of those challenges. Perhaps, next time, I would just have to admit that our particular crew required a bit more attention than most families.
Upon my return, the littlest member of my family and I could see the cooking class had made some huge strides. All three dishes were almost complete and my youngest and I did are best to try and pick up any slack.
When it was time to sit down, we got right along with #nimatesting so we could get on to enjoying the Vietnamese food we had so lovingly prepared.
Papaya Salad with Shrimp and Crackers.
This dish passed the #nimatest with our Nima Sensor portable gluten tester. No Gluten Found!
Banh Xeo - Rice Pancake with Fresh Salad.
This dish did not pass the #nimatest with our Nima Sensor portable gluten tester. The result was sadly Gluten Found. Because I spent so much time away from the table, I can't honestly say what happened here. But, we just told Kid Allergy to pass eating this dish and so sadly he was unable to try this one.
Chicken in a Clay Pot with Steamed Rice.
This dish passed the #nimatest with our Nima Sensor portable gluten tester. No Gluten Found!
Last up was the sweet treat. Thankfully, we didn't have to teach the kids how to work their way around quartering a prickly pineapple--the Cooking Cchool staff brought it out to our table already cut and plated. This totally afforded the parents an opportunity to relax and celebrate all of our hard work!
We are handed a parting gift before we cross the dragon bridge to end the tour. As pictured above, our family is now the proud owner of a collection of the recipes created today. We are all thrilled that our family can now recreate these recipes at home.
Accommodating No Meat?
We saw that the Cooking School did a stellar job of being able to work around the gluten free eating requirement. How about the one that is non-meat eating?
To make sure that the pescatarian of the group didn't miss out on a main dish, Hoian Eco Coconut Tours provided two really nice looking fillets of fish for the hubby.
Remember, though, that this seafood dish was outside the norm. Meaning, it took a bit of extra attention and time to prepare. While the hubby focused on that, I was left to preparing the chicken dish alone with two young kids. Thankfully, because the chicken recipe was simple enough, I was able to manage the children alone without any issue.
Yes, you can do this tour with kids as young as five years old! With the exception of that gigantic knife, our little one was able to do everything else.
Even our family with all of our other restrictions was able to make it through the session without any hiccups or frustration from either of our children.
Accommodating Those Gluten Free?
Yes! This tour can be done if you eat gluten free. These folks took great care to make sure that our kids were included and that our health and safety was managed.
Kid Allergy said the best part of this tour was that he got to be part of a group in an event involving food. For a kid with a food allergy, feeling a part of something where food is concerned is a very rare occurrence.
So.....while maybe mom wished we had a private cooking class because of the mere logistics of it all, we see that our oldest saw it differently.
Who knew we had to come half way around the world to a culture and land that is completely foreign to our own to find that feeling of inclusiveness?
Thanks Hoian Eco Coconut Tours. And...thank you beautiful Vietnam.
Watch Your Head!
Yes, the dragon bridge is beautiful but be mindful that the mouth of the dragon is a bit short. Make sure to avoid scrapping your head on the sharp metal by being conscious and bending down when entering and exiting.
Kid Allergy Travel received complimentary admission to attend the Eco Tour & Cooking Class with Hoian Eco Coconut Tours. Although this was part of a media visit, rest assured, the opinions provided in the post by Kid Allergy Travel remain our own. Photos by Kid Allergy Travel.
Want to learn more about Part I & Part II of the Eco Tour & Cooking Class Tour with Hoian Eco Coconut Tours? Read more about the rest of this tour below: