Vietnamese cuisine is one of the most richly layered and tastiest in the world. And that’s surprising, because it’s not that difficult to make it. We wanted to learn on how to do it and decided to take Nha Trang cooking class. We learned about some of the basic ingredients in Vietnamese cooking and the authentic taste of the local cuisine.

One of our go-to restaurants during our stay in Nha Trang 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 restaurant sits in the middle of Nha Trang’s busy main thoroughfare. It has a very high rating on sites like Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor.

nha trang cooking class: The lanterns restaurant
Lanterns Restaurant, which is glowing at dinner time!
Lanterns Nha Trang Cooking Class

Cooking classes 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 course, 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!

nha trang cooking class: Xom Moi market
Inside Xom Moi traditional market
Our 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 market. It was a fun trip, as we were each assigned a cycloride to get there! A 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 Vietnam. 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.

nha trang cooking class: Xom Moi market
Our chef guide is explaining on fresh ingredients as well as some cultural insights.

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.

nha trang cooking class: Michael on a cycloride
Taking our fresh ingredients back to the cooking class on a cycloride!
The class

Before the class began, we told Chef Flower that we wanted to prepare the vegetarian option for. Not surprisingly, she was well prepared, with Vietnamese food recipes for almost any dietary restrictions students may have, including Vietnamese vegan recipes. We had a few options to choose from. For dessert, you could choose what fruit you wanted to include, from mangoes to bananas.

nha trang cooking class: chef flower chopping ingredients
Chef Flower, showing us how to prepare our dish
Appetizer round

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.

nha trang cooking class: Halef with our spring rolls
Halef is showing off the final product!
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!

nha trang cooking class: vegetarian tofy hot pot
Our vegetarian clay pot dish: tofu and button mushrooms with bean sprouts.
Dessert

For any normal person, dessert would seem like the least dangerous part of a meal to prepare. Enter Michael! 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 Nha Trang cooking class at Lanterns 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!

nha trang cooking class: Michael nearly burning the place down
A flambé technique not to follow!

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 that we still use weekly at home!

Other programs offered by Lanterns

While the restaurant itself is quite popular, Lanterns is the most popular Nha Trang cooking class that we know of. In addition to that, they also have several other great programs to consider.

  • Ninh Hoa Tour. Many of Lanterns’ staff were born and grew up in this town 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 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.
nha trang cooking class: pineapple flambe
Dessert on us! Pineapple flambe with ice cream and chocolate drizzle.
Book your Nha Trang cooking class

Contact them directly to reserve a spot for Nha Trang cooking class 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
email: lanterns_vn@yahoo.com

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Nha Trang Cooking Class


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Halef moved from Indonesia to the US nearly two decades ago to go to college here. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been to over forty countries and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. He’s a Landscape Architect in Atlanta, GA.


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