Vietnamese cuisine is one of the most richly layered and tasty in the world. And that’s surprising, because it’s also not that difficult to make it. We wanted to learn on how to do it and decided to take a Nha Trang cooking class.
We learned about some of the basic ingredients in Vietnamese cooking and the authentic taste of the local cuisine.
Our favorite Nha Trang restaurant during our stay was Lanterns. It was right down the street from our hostel and the menu included some yummy vegetarian options.
As luck would have it, Lanterns offers a half-day cooking class that anybody can join.
This well-established Nha Trang restaurant sits in the middle of the city’s busy main thoroughfare. It has a very high rating on sites like Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor.
A lot of times, I ignore these ratings. But in this case, they have it spot on.
Lanterns Cooking Class
Cooking classes at Lanterns are available four times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The class starts at 9am and ends at 2pm, with a cost of $27 per person. A minimum of two sign-ups are required for a class to take place.
It didn’t seem that they had any issues meeting this minimum!
Your class will include a visit to a local market to pick up fresh ingredients to bring back to Lanterns restaurant to prepare your meal. The menu includes 3 courses: a starter, a main, and dessert.
You will learn how to cook all of these using the fresh ingredients you bought from local vendors with the help of an experienced chef and other staff.
Of course, at the end, you get to eat all of the food you prepare!
Lanterns cooking class experience
We met up at Lanterns before 9am with the rest of the class and our instructor, Chef Flower. The first thing on the agenda was a visit to a traditional Vietnamese market.
It was a fun trip, as we were each assigned a cycloride to get there!
A Vietnamese cycloride is basically a modified Vietnamese rickshaw, pedaled by an operator on a bike who is sitting behind you.
At the Xom Moi traditional market, Chef Flower showed us around and navigated through the narrow alleys to get fresh ingredients for our Nha Trang cooking class.
She did an extraordinary job explaining some of the local fruits and vegetables and how to pick the most fresh batch to buy.
Button mushrooms, chilis and mangos were all on the menu today.
The market also offers a glimpse of how locals work and live, and we learned some of the ins and outs of bargaining in Vietnamese markets.
Some of these practices are completely different than the western standard, so you will need to bring your open-mindedness and questions to ask your guide.
The Lanterns chef was extremely helpful and friendly, and spoke English very well. She even bought us each a fresh sugar cane drink to enjoy during a break at the market, while sampling some jackfruit.
After the market, it was back to the cycloride to return to the restaurant. We brought back our fresh ingredients to Lanterns Restaurant to start our class.
Preparing for our class
Before the class began, we told Chef Flower that we wanted to do a vegetarian cooking class. Not surprisingly, she was well prepared, with Vietnamese food recipes for almost any dietary restrictions students may have, including vegan Vietnamese recipes.
We had a few options to choose from.
For dessert, you could choose what fruit you wanted to include, from mangoes to bananas.
Our Vietnamese appetizer
For our starter, we learned how to create a Vietnamese Rice Paper Spring Roll (Goi Cuon). The dish included vermicelli noodles, cilantro, carrots, and lettuce, all rolled up into rice wrappers. Shrimp can be included in this Vietnamese recipe, too.
Finally, we have to present them on a plate.
We had to be creative and use our artistic abilities with the various sauces.
Our main course
Next up – the main dish. Lots of chopping and sauce marinating to do here. The work station is located under an outdoor canopy, so it not air-conditioned.
As we started to cook, we had to turn off the ceiling fan so the gas stoves would function properly.
As a result, we were sweating a lot as we cooked!
The class’s challenge was to prepare a traditional clay hotpot. Ours are consisted of fried tofu, bean sprouts and button mushrooms over steamed rice.
It’s up to you to decide how many hot bird-eye peppers go in your dish. We went on the high side and it was a very delicious, spicy dish!
How not to make a flambé dessert
For any normal person, dessert would seem like the least dangerous part of a meal to prepare.
We had our choice of fruit for the dessert course – bananas, pineapples or mangoes. This was going to be a flambé dessert with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle.
The idea of a flambé is to pour some alcohol very gently into a hot pan. The alcohol that spatters will ignite from the flame of the stove, causing the remaining alcohol in the pan to gently light up and sear whatever’s in the pan.
Everyone accomplished this with near-expert precision and will remember their cooking class in Nha Trang for the safe experience that it was.
Except Michael, who nearly burned the whole place down.
Fortunately nothing was burned (except a little of Michael’s hair), and we could enjoy the fruits of our labor!
In the end, our Nha Trang cooking class was successful and no one died! Before we left, we received a small cookbook and a gift bag with a traditional wooden cooking paddle made of coconut.
A very cool gift from Lanterns that we still use at home!
Programs offered by Lanterns
While the restaurant itself is quite popular, Lanterns is definitely the most popular Vietnamese cooking class in Nha Trang that we know of.
Is Lanterns the best cooking class in Vietnam? We don’t know. It’s the only one we took. But we have to think that, if it’s not at least the best cooking class in Nha Trang, it’s up there at the top.
In addition to the cooking class, Lanterns also has several other great programs to consider.
Ninh Hoa Tour
Many of Lanterns’ staff were born and grew up in Ninh Hoa – about 40 km north of Nha Trang. They offer a tailored day tour where you can visit a local Vietnamese countryside community to see their culture up close.
The tour starts at 9 AM and concludes at 4 PM at Lanterns restaurant.
According to their website, you will be able to walk through rice paddy fields, ride around in a bull cart, and taste some sticky rice treats, Vietnamese teas, or rice wine.
You’ll also visit an incense factory to learn how they make it.
Street Food Tour
If you are curious about local street food vendors in Nha Trang (or Vietnam in general), join this tour. The tour guarantees the hygiene of the food offered, and only visits well-established street vendors to sample different specialties.
Your guide will be able to answer any questions you may have and take you to areas that not many visitors ever seen in Nha Trang.
Local Community Charity
Lanterns supports the local community. They run a charity focusing on local children in Khanh Hoa province. They have been raising money to give scholarships to those in need.
Every Monday from 11 AM to noon, the staff and volunteers prepare and distribute free food to local kids in front of their restaurant in Nha Trang.
Locals and volunteers are welcome to join any of these activities. If you happen to be in town in late March and early April, you can join their big annual celebration for kids.
It’s a day of fun and attracts local children who play and to interact.
Ask the staff for the exact event date and how you can help or volunteer.
Book a Nha Trang cooking class
Contact Lanterns Vietnamese Restaurant directly to reserve a spot for your cooking class in Nha Trang or for a guided tour. They are also available to answer any questions you may have.
Lanterns Vietnamese Restaurant and Cooking Classes
30A Nguyen Thien Thuat St.
phone: (0258) 2471 674
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