Sneinton Market’s Vietnamese Haven
I was invited down to Sneinton Market recently to try out one of the latest food offerings, Vietcentric. You may have smelt the spices of this Vietnamese venue without even realising it as you’ll find them participating in the Friday night stalls on Avenue B. Sneinton Market is not somewhere I frequent often, I do cycle through it on the way to and from my gym but that’s way too early for any venues to send out their tantalising scents. It was local to my work so I quickly accepted the offer to come down and try out their cooking class for myself.
When I arrived I was directed into the back room where they had an “L” shaped set up, TV and tables around the edges of the room. I took a seat with three others and made small talk whilst the class waited for a few more participants. There were ten of us in total with only me and one other chap being singular, it seemed like a couple activity.
Vietcentric’s Cooking Class Review
We were all offered a complimentary drink of wine or beer (it comes with the price) and were told to settle in as the hosts, Hannah and Kiki, would take us through an introduction to Vietnam. They introduced themselves as natives of Vietnam, both of them currently students in Nottingham, with very different opinions on the best areas to visit in the country.
We were taken on a tour of regions, the traditions and the language, all of which utilised the TV and an interactive presentation.We were encouraged to ask questions throughout and there was interesting discussion from the group about their favourite places, places where they’d been stung by jellyfish and some of the food that they’d eaten. As somebody who’s never been to the country it was fascinating to listen to and it really made me want to visit. After the introduction was over and everybody was acquainted we were asked to find a place at the counters and get ready for the class. The first dish we were preparing was a Vietnamese clay pot chicken which would be cooked in a clay pot for 20-25 minutes.
We started marinating the chicken by mixing ingredients from them table – they were set out for us and labelled (it was really easy). We were then asked to write our name on the bowl and put them to one side to marinate for half an hour. We also crushed, chopped and mixed the additional ingredients such as shallots, chillies, lemongrass lime leaves and pepper plus soy sauce and spices ready to cook later. After we’d finished chopping people took the opportunity to wash their hands and I had a quick chat with Kiki, one of the hosts about how Notts Foodie started and how it works.
The next dish to make was minced pork spring rolls; the first step was to create the stuffing which consisted of kohlrabi (part of the cabbage family), noodles, egg, carrot, fish sauce and wood ear mushrooms. The mushrooms were massive, they looked like elephant ears and we were told you buy them small and soak them in water for 10 minutes, they expand and you’re able to use them as standard mushrooms. They were awesome to look at and sliced really easily.
To make the rolls it was a case of chopping everything, mixing it together and rolling them in rice paper. The paper is really hard to start and feels very delicate enough that, if I wasn’t careful, I’d end up breaking it. To make it suitable for rolling you had to sprinkle water and swoosh it around the whole paper (back and front). Then you add in a section of your stuffing and roll away. The trick is to roll until the middle then fold in the sides and finish off the rolling. Each portion of stuffing made 3-4 rolls, depending on how fat you made them. Once they were rolled we put them to one side and started to cook our chicken dish.
The chicken was going to be cooked in an oven so this was just a case of flash frying the ingredients. We added mixed everything together and placed it within a clay bowl which was numbered. We had to remember our number for when it came out later on, to make sure we got the right dish! Here’s mine ready to go in the oven.
As the chicken was whisked away we started cooking the spring rolls. Gas hobs were re-lit and we were given fresh pans and oil. It was a case of getting them up to the right temperature and frying the spring rolls until they were crispy brown on all sides. It took about 15-20 minutes.
Once we were done we sat down and began the feast. When the chicken was ready it came out and you simply claimed your number. I have to say, I’m a pretty good cook!
The food was fantastic. I’m a little biased as Asian food is my favourite. It doesn’t really matter where in Asia it’s from, I tend to love it. This was no different, it was fresh and flavourful and even better because I’d made it myself.
After we’d finished eating we were asked if we’d like to try some Vietnamese dress. This consisted of a number of garments they brought out from the back and the traditional hats. It was great fun and it was good to learn more about the culture. As with many cultures, this used to be the standard but, as time has gone on it has dwindled slightly and it only gets used for big occasions and formal dress.
When we were leaving we were given a little goody bag which contained a leaflet, mushrooms, noodles and a Vietnamese sweet which you eat with green tea. Add in some meat and some rice paper to the ingredients you receive and it will be easy to make the spring rolls at home.
The whole night lasted about 4 hours which, when I first heard I thought was way too long. It wasn’t, it went ridiculously fast and it was great to hear about the culture and the history of the country before and during the feast.
Each cooking class costs £45pp and includes the ingredients, a glass of wine, instructions and a full history of Vietnam. For an experience I would highly recommend it. If you can get a group of you then it would be even better.
The team were able to cater for vegetarians but check if you have any other dietary requirements.
Love for you all,