Ho Chi Minh, Singtel/TLC Winning Ticket Trip
You may or may not know, but I entered a competition with Singtel recently, and I only ended up winning. Surprise, surprise. I struggled to remember what I had entered actually, but could not thank them enough. What did I win? Well only a three day, two night trip to Ho Chi Minh, and cooking class at Luke Nguyen’s Cooking School, Grain, for Mary and I. He is one of my favourite Chefs, and I have most of his books already, so I was massively excited. We left the older kids, but took Jude with us. What fun. Food fun in one of my absolute favourite cities on this planet, learning at one of my favourite Chefs places. Can it get any better? So begins Ho Chi Minh, Singtel/TLC Winning Ticket Trip.
It’s so easy to get to Ho Chi Minh, literally one hour and 30 minutes and you are there.
But first here is Baby Jude at Changi Airport, in the waiting lounge having met two new girlfriends. He is a bonkers socialite, and a little crazy. Here he is.
But when we got in the hotel limo, it took about 2.5 hours to get to the hotel due to such bad traffic. It was bonkers busy. We all had a little sleep, only so many times you can look at a scooter.
The driver was a top guy though, ad we chatted quite a bit on the way. One interesting thing he advised us of, was that the Mayor of the city had banded tuk tuks, as he feels they are unsightly. I think that is really rather sad.
The hotel was superb. A fantastic location, quality room, restaurants and seriously great staff. Jude found the latter out immediately with the gift of his Vietnamese hat. Lucky little thing. He is really getting in to it.
The room wasn’t ready as we got there at midday, so of to lunch we go. The driver advised where to get the best Pho. So we virtually sprinted down the road, dicing with death at every road crossing. It’s bonkers, you just walk across at a steady speed, and the cars and scooters ‘avoid’ you. It’s weird. They ignore the road signs, traffic lights and zebra crossings.
We decided to go for a little walk after we’d checked in. Lets go see the mighty Mekong. It was literally about 10 minutes walk down the road. Too easy. And what better way than to find your way around a city than to walk it. We also used the walk to select our targets for food food food. Oh yes this is one major food city, restaurants are everywhere – at ground level, 1st/2nd and also so many rooftops.
I was a little disappointed, and yes Chef Nguyen I’d say it to your face. I have all your books and watch all your shows on TLC. In fa ct you even had your street food books on display for people to purchase in the restaurant. You present on Vietnamese culture, food history, food culture, and even cook on the street and in markets. BUT your food was not like that all at the restaurant. It was sort of a fusion style. I really wanted the former, the classics, the very things you who off so well on your TV shows. The food at Pho 24 was what we were after. But hey we still had fun, and it sure is a very cool fit out. Yes it was good, juts not what I expected.
We got a little lost finding the cooking school and walked past it a few times. There are no signs until literally they open at 2pm for the class, and then they erect a pull up sign. We were hot and sweaty. I needed a 333 and Jude needed some lunch. So we popped to this local joint, up stairs on the corner. Also a great opportunity to ask for directions.
We finally found it. A very cool place is Grain, Luke Nguyen’s cooking school. And bless Singtel/TLC they had booked us into a private class. So one Chef, Tuan, his assistant, Mary and I – with Jude watching. It was great. I learnt a lot from Tuan. Things like;
- Fish sauce has many different variants, almost like wine. I now will only source a better product, it made such a difference in the cooking;
- Fish sauce in Vietnam is not made with pineapple like it is in Thailand, hence Thai fish sauce is a lot sweeter;
- Using potato starch instead of flour, especially when shallow frying;
- When shallow frying use wooden chop sticks to test the heat, more bubbles = more heat; and
- For creating delicious fried crispy garlic and peanuts for salads, dry them first between paper towels before frying – hey presto!
So what can I say, but a massive thank you again to Singtel and TLC. We had an absolute ball doing Ho Chi Minh, Singtel/TLC Winning Ticket Trip. It was so good. The cooking class was excellent. The whole experience was just such fun. We ate like Kings and Queens (and Prince of course). We’ll certainly be back, next time with the whole gang. We’ll definitely stay again at Caravelle Hotel. We will absolutely eat more and more food, and for definite at Pho24. Love you Vietnam. We will see you very very soon.