Existing within the picturesque city of Hoi An are some of the best cooking classes in the country. With culinary traditions dug deep, access to amazing seafood and organic produce, it’s no wonder why a plethora of cooking classes and schools have come into being. Attending a class will help you to understand better the Vietnamese food that you’ve come to love and is a great way to bring those dishes home with you. Click here for an introduction to the most popular Vietnamese dishes.
However, there are so many options for classes, that it can be quite tricky narrowing it down to find one that suits your interests, expectations and needs. We at Hidden Hoi An have reviewed the most popular cooking schools and cheap cooking classes in town and have broken it down to make your decision easier.
Things to consider when choosing a class
Choosing the right class is all important; the choice depends on many variables, all of which change from person to person, and from family to family. Perhaps you’re travelling with children and ensuring the class is enjoyable for the whole family is a high priority. Or are you a skilled cook seeking a class to step up your repertoire? Maybe you’re just looking for a light-hearted class to pick up a couple of local recipes. It’s also wise to consider your skill level and what you hope to achieve. No matter your wants and needs, there is a class for you!
The market tour
The fundamental reason for attending a cooking class is to learn the dishes of the country that you’re in. However, a big part of the day and something not to be overlooked is the market tour. This portion may not be recognised as key, but seeing and touching the ingredients in their raw state will help you understand where and how the end product comes together. The markets in Hoi An are gastronomic wonderlands where you’ll be shown local produce, spices, and proteins that are used in everyday life in Vietnam.
The majority of cooking classes will bring you through the Central Market in Old Town. While this market is still a significant part of Hoi An, the authentic charm is diminishing due to the volume of tourists—and you may have already come here on your own time. The one element that does stand out at Central Market is their fish market. With the market being positioned on the water’s edge, boats can transport their goods straight to the market with ease—this results in a much larger variety and a higher quality of seafood available.
Some cooking tours will forgo the Central Market altogether and instead choose to bring the class to one of the local markets around the city. These markets tend to be smaller and have little to no tourists. The standout feature of the local markets are the areas dedicated to the farmers. The farmers will show up early with their fresh produce, and sell not only to customers but also sell to the larger produce stands at the market, who then add a markup. Every market will have a section for the farmers, but the local ones are much larger. Expect to feel like you’re in the way regardless of where you stand, but this is all part of the fun.
Hidden Hint: Skipping the Market – If you’re on a time limit or have had your fill of markets and are just looking to cook, some schools give the option not to attend one. If you’ve found a school that you’re interested in attending and they don’t give the option of excluding the market, give them a call. Some will allow the change, especially if they don’t have anyone else attending that day, or they may allow you to join after the market tour is completed.
The most popular cooking schools in Hoi An
My Grandma’s Home Cooking
Run by the same people behind Heaven And Earth Tours, this is a great school to attend if you’re after a healthy combination of food and local culture. They only have one class, and it’s aimed at novice cooks looking for an introduction to the local cuisine. It’s also a good class to consider if you’re travelling with a family. There is wiggle room within class time if you need to tend to a young child, and they also have a wooden crib available.
What’s nice about My Grandma’s Home Cooking is the flexibility you’re given when planning the day. There is a morning and afternoon class for you to choose from, both of which exclude a market tour. If you are interested in touring the market, a trip to Central Market can be added on for 150,000 VND (6.50 USD) extra, along with an earlier start time for each class. In addition, if you’d like to forgo the boat ride back at the end of the class, you can instead arrange a guided 9-kilometre bike ride for 340,000 VND (15 USD). This option is only available if you’ve booked the morning class due to timing.
If you’ve chosen to add the market tour to your day, expect a good amount of time at the stalls in the Central market, along with detailed explanations of the produce and vendors. For the price point of the class, it’s a worthwhile addition to the day.
My Grandma’s Home Cooking is located roughly 20-minutes away by boat on Duy Vinh, a very rural island south of Hoi An. The school is situated where Grandma’s home used to be. Grandma felt that the space was too large for her and asked for a smaller home to be built in the back of the property. Tables are now set up in the yard with a dirt floor and a thatched roof. Chickens run around, and locals can be seen passing by, carrying out their daily business. It’s a unique and homely setting to spend the day learning about the local cuisine.
The class isn’t difficult to follow, and some of the ingredients are pre-portioned by the friendly assistants for easy assembly. At your stations, you’ll prepare four local dishes with the help of Grandma’s home recipes. With your final dish, you’ll be served a pumpkin soup and a dessert that is prepared by the staff. The class is pretty straightforward, so if you’re a strong cook, this will be an effortless day.
You’ll be given a good quality colour booklet outlining the recipes from the day that also includes a section in the back showcasing the local fruits along with descriptions and facts.
The mix of food and culture is the real highlight of this tour, along with being able to customize the day to fit your needs slightly. Not only was the class itself enjoyable, but the interesting stories told by the instructor about the area and local people really set it apart from other cooking schools.
Cooking Class Price: 600,000 VND (26 USD) – Child Price: 7 to 12-years-old if sharing parents’ cooking station, 70% off; if wanting their own station, the price is 50% off. Children aged under 5 are free.
Menu: Banh Xeo, grilled pork brochettes, green papaya salad, clay pot fish. The clay pot fish will be served with rice, soup and a dessert that’s prepared by the assistants.
Red Bridge Cooking School
Red Bridge is a fantastic cooking school with classes led by professional chefs. The restaurant and cooking school is located east of the city centre on the riverbank. The open concept area is modern, clean, and spacious, with palm trees and a good atmosphere. They offer three class options to choose from, catering to all time frames and skill sets.
Hidden Hint: Red Bridge has a 20-metre swimming pool that they advertise the use of if you attend a half-day or deluxe class. It’s a great way to cool off after a fun day slaving in the kitchen.
With the half-day class, you first receive a guided tour of the Central Market in Old Town. Next, a 25-minute boat ride will take you east along the river to the restaurant and cooking school. There you’ll be shown the many herbs and fruit trees in the Red Bridge garden before starting your class. You’re then walked through the preparation of four local dishes and taught some decorative techniques with the produce.
If you’re competent in the kitchen or a skilled chef, this class may seem rudimentary. It is, however, a good entry-level class for someone seeking a first approach to Vietnamese cooking.
This class begins with a minivan ride to Tra Que Organic Vegetable Village, where you’ll be introduced to various plants and herbs used in Vietnamese cooking. Next, you’ll be taken to a local market on the north side of Hoi An and be shown some vendors and a large section where the farmers sell their goods. They will also point out a very local bánh xèo stall inside the market that is worth checking out if you decide to come back on your own time.
The day will then continue to the Red Bridge School where you’ll partake in the creation of four dishes, one of which is pho. What’s nice about seeing pho on the menu is that the majority of cooking schools in Hoi An don’t include this iconic dish—mainly due to the time that is required to develop the flavour of the stock. In the class, you may only simmer the stock for three hours, but the instructor explains that this is the minimum amount of time to cook it and that if you recreate the dish at home a longer cooking time will yield a better result.
The Deluxe Day is a solid option if you’re a food enthusiast and are interested in a comprehensive understanding of the dishes you’re creating. That being said, this class is more than manageable for all skill levels with the help of the knowledgeable staff.
Hai Café Evening Cooking Class
The short evening class takes place at Hai Café in Old Town. It’s aimed at those who are looking to do a class that is quick and to the point. The hour and a half long class will take you through the preparation of a five-course meal, where you’ll prepare three of the five dishes yourself. The restaurant will provide the other two dishes for you. Your instructor will explain to you the local ingredients and demo the preparation before it’s your turn to whip up your Vietnamese dinner.
The Evening Cooking Class is perfect for people that are keen to roll a dinner out in Old Town and a cooking class into one.
With each of the classes, you’re gifted all the recipes and notes to take home with you. If having attended the Deluxe Day, you’ll also be given a Red Bridge apron.
Price: Half Day: 782,000 VND (34 USD) – Deluxe Day: 1,288,000 VND (56 USD) – Evening Class: 506,000 VND (22 USD) – Child Price: Under 7 years old is free, above 7 is full price
Half-Day Class Menu: Fresh Rice Paper Rolls of Shrimp, Banh Xeo, Seafood Salad with mixed Vietnamese Herbs served in Half a Pineapple, Fresh Noodles with Chicken (Vegetarian Menu Available). See website for other menus.
Tra Que Water Wheel Cooking Class
Tra Que Village, a small island north of the city, is known for its rich soils and organic produce that is farmed there. Water Wheel offers a number of interesting tour options set in this small farming community, all of which include cycling at one point or another. Plots of organic herbs and vegetables that are tended to by local farmers surround the cooking school and restaurant. It’s a serene and tranquil environment to learn more about Vietnamese farming and cuisine. Running Tra Que Water Wheel are nine sisters and cousins, all with a high-level enthusiasm and fun-loving attitude.
Market tour and cycling
The day starts with one of the staff members meeting you with bicycles at your accommodation. From there you cycle the streets of Hoi An, working your way towards Central Market. There you meet up with the other participants in the class and begin a guided tour. You’re lead through the bustling market where you’re introduced to some local produce and vendors. Next, your guide takes your group on a 20-minute bike ride to the Vegetable Village. On your route north through the city the roads will shrink in size just before opening into rice fields—it’s an incredibly scenic trip.
With such a large family team at Water Wheel, large groups and classes are possible to accommodate—and with the attention necessary for nobody to feel left out. Tra Que Water Wheel is an open concept restaurant-style space that still retains the very local vibe of the area.
The uncomplicated and simple food, coupled with straightforward cooking makes this an especially easy class to enjoy, and the majority of the ingredients are pre-portioned and prepped for the students. You’ll have your own cooking station, but at some points, you will be partnered up to tackle a dish. If you’re a skilled cook or are wanting a more hands approach with the prep, this class will be lacking somewhat.
You are given a Certificate of Attendance in the style of a diploma, a printout of the recipes you used, and a kitchen utensil—in Hidden’s case a multi-purpose peeler.
Tra Que Water Wheel provides fun classes in a scenic setting. However, the skill level required is lower compared to other schools. We would recommend this class for families that are looking for an enjoyable class where younger students may feel more at ease, or if you are seeking a space that can accommodate larger groups.
Cooking Class Price: 690,000 VND (30 USD) – Child Price: Under 10 – 345,000 VND (15 USD)
Menu: Tam Huu Spring Rolls, Banh Xeo, Papaya Salad, Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves with rice, fruit in season (Vegetarian Menu Available)
Vy’s Market Restaurant & Cooking School
“Taste Vietnam” by Ms Vy is a company that includes Vy’s wide range of restaurants, cafes and cooking classes. A number of varied food related tours and classes are offered, all set at different skill levels. There are straight up cooking classes, ones that include bike tours and food-related activities, as well as tours that include the manicured street food stalls at her restaurant.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the Advanced Master Class that is offered.
Market tour and street food stations
After meeting at Vy’s Market Restaurant, you’re handed a basket for your ingredients and taken on a quick boat ride to the Central Market. There you’ll be shown various stalls and vendors, and also handed out ingredients as you go for your dishes later on. The last stop on the market tour is a dry goods stand where you’ll be shown spice packets and multiple roots and herbs. While there you’ll be shown different local cooking utensils and their uses. In the end, you’re given the opportunity to purchase some. After you’ve completed your shopping, there is one more quick boat ride back to the restaurant.
Hidden Hint: Advertised in the online description of the day is that you’ll receive a Vietnamese utensil at the end of the class. While at the market, you’re given a chance to purchase the demoed tool for yourself. Ask your guide which utensil you’ll receive to avoid purchasing the same one.
After, a tour of the Market Restaurant street food station is given. You’ll be able to sample some local treats and see some of the food preparation that goes into the dishes.
The cooking facility is located upstairs in a space designed for teaching. It’s clean, spacious, and organised, much like a classroom, with the teacher at the front and multiple tables for two. It’s a fairly fast-paced class, with the teacher demonstrating the procedure of the dish, and then you having to replicate it. Assistants are walking around, removing bowls and cleaning as you go, but they don’t help much unless asked. As you go through the dishes, you’ll clean, cut, and prep the ingredients you were given at the market. After each dish, you have a short period of time to eat your creation before moving on to the next one.
The skill level needed for this class is a moderate level, and it’s aimed at people comfortable in a kitchen environment. You’ll be required to listen and then replicate the dish that was demonstrated by the teacher. The instructions are clear, and the recipes yield a tasty result. If you happen to forget any of the measurements or instructions, the teacher is there to help.
At the end of your class, you’ll be given a printout of the recipes for the dishes you’ve created, and a Vietnamese kitchen utensil—in Hidden’s case, it was a local-style peeler.
Vy’s Cooking School offers a nice variety of classes catering to different needs and skill sets, but sometimes it can feel lacking in the personal touch. Instead what you get is a very structured day, along with set time limits and multiple assistants. You are not going to get to know your instructor well, and with that, you will lose out on cultural nuances that you may find in other cooking schools. The instructors are knowledgeable, and the recipes are very good. Additionally, Vy’s Cooking School can accommodate large groups of people in a class and have the staff and facility to assist them properly.
Prices: Holiday Masterclass: 727,000 VND (32 USD) – Advanced Masterclass: 954,000 VND (42 USD) – Gourmet Class with Ms Lulu: 1,022,000 VND (45 USD)
Menu: Please see website.
Hidden’s final thoughts
With Hoi An having such an active local food scene, it makes this a fantastic location to attend a cooking class. Hopefully, this article has been able to help you find a class that suits your needs. At the very least maybe it’s raised some points in your mind you hadn’t yet considered about what you’re looking for. After everything is said and done, the most essential part of the class is to understand the dish that you’re cooking, to the point of being comfortable recreating it when you return home. It doesn’t matter what you walk in with, as long as you walk out with more.