Enjoying a Taste of Vietnam in the comfort of my own home

A cooking lesson with Taste of Vietnam.

A cooking lesson with Taste of Vietnam. - Credit: Archant

I am a big fan at looking at what we can do, rather than what we can’t – and the events this year of the St Albans Food and Drink Festival show that there is plenty out there to enjoy while we get through these weird months. Throughout September this year’s festival has seen special films and mini events focusing on some of our local food heroes, producers and market stall holders, as well as smaller pop-up markets in the town centre.

Noodle soup and spring rolls.

Noodle soup and spring rolls. - Credit: Archant

This week is world food week. I invited Anne Harvey, of Taste of Vietnam to my home for a very long over-due cookery lesson. I have been a customer of Anne’s for ages now, going to her home to pick up her homemade takeaway Vietnamese food, which she makes most weekends. During lockdown Anne also made banh mi rolls, and I loved getting these and taking them to sit in nearby Clarence Park. Anne mentioned to me that she did cooking lessons in people’s homes, so I gave it a go! Even with the restrictions at the moment, you can have Anne come to your home to teach you and your family new recipes – what a wonderful chance to learn something new.

I chose to make spring rolls, as they are a favourite in our house. Anne also suggested a vegan noodle soup, and she arrived with a large bag of fresh ingredients, including basil and mint grown in her own garden. We set to work making the spicy prawn filling you need for the rolls, by soaking super-thin glass noodles, chopping raw prawns, shallots and garlic and shredding carrot. Dried wood ear mushrooms were soaked and chopped, and everything was mixed together with egg. If you want to make a vegan version, you can use cooked and mashed mung beans in place of the prawn and egg. The best part (and this is perfect for kids and teens too), is soaking and rolling the wafer-thin rice papers. We then fried the rolls, and made a dipping sauce to go with them. The rolls were fun to make and without Anne I would never have attempted it. And to think she makes hundreds every weekend for her customers!

While we made the rolls, Anne started a root vegetable broth for the noodle soup that simmered away in the background. We then added fried tofu, noodles and plenty of chopped herbs, chilli and spring onion. Anne usually then leaves you and your group to eat the food you have made, so of course, dinner is sorted. It’s a great idea for a special occasion, and Anne said her groups often have a glass of fizz to hand as they learn how to cook.

Ben Roper filmed the lesson for the festival, and you can see the video over at enjoystalbans.com on the St Albans Food and Drink Festival page. You will also be able to see the recipe, so you can have a go yourself. If you would prefer Anne to cook for you, then head over to her Facebook page Taste of Vietnam St Albans for the weekly menu, and to place your order. Grilled chicken curry, grilled fish curry, mien tron (chicken noodle salad), bun bo hue (beef noodle soup) and sweetcorn fritters are the choices at the moment.