Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

A Real Adventure in Asian Cuisine ; KARIN WRIGHT Eats like a Local in South East Asia - and Learns How to Cook like One Too

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

A Real Adventure in Asian Cuisine ; KARIN WRIGHT Eats like a Local in South East Asia - and Learns How to Cook like One Too

Article excerpt

MY FIRST day in Vietnam started with a steaming bowl of pho, followed by lively markets, street food, a massage, a cooking class and a delicious dinner.

It ended in a karaoke booth - rented by the hour, complete with red lighting and sticky seats - where I murdered Hotel California.

Hanoi rocks!

Many travellers recoil in horror at the idea of eating street food on holiday.

But in Vietnam it is pretty safe - and utterly delicious - to graze, as the locals do, from food cooked on pavement stalls.

Everything is fresh and seasonal, bought at markets and turned into tasty morsels on the day.

I learned this on the first day of Imaginative Traveller's Real Food Adventure - like a normal tour, but with added eating and cooking!

I was joined in the capital Hanoi by a dozen foodies from all over the world and, after that first bowl of pho, a fragrant noodle soup which is the national dish, our intrepid guide Hanh took us to Chau Long Market, where Aussie chef Tracey Lister taught us how to choose the best fish sauce, and showed us exotic dragon fruit, rambutans and mangosteens.

We zig-zagged around, dodging millions of motorbikes - crossing the road takes nerve - trying banh cuon pancakes here and mung bean doughnuts there.

There was time for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake, and a stroll through the beautiful old quarter, where Buddhist temples sit next to French colonial buildings, before we stopped for heavenly coffee and pastries.

Later, we tried our hand at ginger chicken, banana flower salad and fresh spring rolls at the Hanoi Cooking Centre - with mixed results, despite the chefs' best efforts.

Jet lag hadn't quite kicked in, so off we went in search of entertainment, led by a Brit called Nigel.

Which is how we ended up in a karaoke bar.

Halong Bay, a few hours away, is one of the highlights of South East Asia.

We sailed around the thousands of little islands, and watched the sun come up - and go down - with awe, while our on-board chef prepared amazing caramel pork and bay prawns. …

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