A Vietnamese Vegan Cooking Class in Hoi An

There are signs everywhere advertising cooking classes in Vietnam. All claim “authentic Vietnamese food,” “the best pho in town,” and “delicious, fresh spring roll masterclasses.” I love cooking, and so does Luke. We often quarrel because we both want to do the cooking, even more often we bicker during the cooking, and we even prefer eating in to eating out. So naturally we wanted to take our bickering out of our own kitchen and into someone else’s.

But our problem isn’t knowing which cooking class to choose, it’s finding a vegetarian one.

We thought about taking one of the recommended cooking classes and just choosing vegetarian options, but when we read the dishes available, it was never possible. So we decided to keep hold of our $30 (£18, the average price of a Vietnamese cooking class) instead.

karma waters Vegan Cooking Class

When we reached Hoi An, we checked out the vegetarian restaurants in the area and were surprised to see a well recommended vegan place, on the edge of the tourist area, called Karma Waters. Whilst eating the most delicious dinner we had in Vietnam, we also noticed they offered a vegan cooking class – so we signed up right away!

You can choose to make 3 dishes, so we chose: a vegetable curry (because we really enjoyed our chickpea one there), tofu and mushroom burger patties, and a quintessential Vietnamese pho.

The 2-hour class was just the two of us, with the chef and the waitress/apprentice Nguyen, who translated for us. The kitchen is small and basic, able to accommodate couples like us but not big tourist groups. I much prefer this because everything is more personable and down to earth.

Nguyen Vegan Cooking Class
Nguyen shows us some dried mushrooms and explains what to do with them.

We learned about ingredients we hadn’t known about from Nguyen, including wood ear mushrooms – yes, they’re shaped like a human ear!

wood ear mushroom Vegan Cooking Class
Me with a mushroom ear; I mean a wood ear mushroom.

These mushrooms went into the tofu burgers along with a variety of other fresh ingredients. The trick to moulding these perfect circle shape is in fact to use a jar lid.

tofu burger Vegan Cooking Class
Nguyen uses the back of a spoon to push the tofu into a jar lid.
tofu burger Vegan Cooking Class
Luke flips the tofu burger pattie out onto the spoon ready to deep fry.
tofu burger Vegan Cooking Class
The final tofu burger, complete with spicy sauce.

Making a vegetable curry from scratch was different from recipes at home; it included different ingredients, like taro, and used coconut powder from Vietnam, making it very different from Indian curries.

vegan veg curry Vegan Cooking Class
Nguyen and Luke use chopsticks to mix the curry.

Vegetarian pho is available all over Vietnam, the first of which we ate up in the mountains of Sapa, but each place has a unique recipe for it because the traditional way, of course, uses beef. Karma Waters use three different types of mushroom and a few other veggies, but the real secret is the spices. To make the broth just right, you need 1 part cinnamon, 1 part aniseed, and 1 part cloves.

mushrooms Vegan Cooking Class
Fresh ingredients for the vegan Vietnamese pho.
pho season Vegan Cooking Class
The usual huge plate of basil and chilli to season the pho.
vegan vietnamese pho Vegan Cooking Class
The final vegan vietnamese pho. Hot, a little spicy, and refreshing on a cool evening.

We scribbled the recipes down to take home and, after cooking, ate like vegan kings. If you’re vegetarian, vegan or into healthy food, make sure you check this place out if you’re travelling in Hoi An, Vietnam.

vegan cooking class Vegan Cooking Class
At the end of the cooking class we devour all of the food! omnomnom

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

4 thoughts to “A Vietnamese Vegan Cooking Class in Hoi An”

  1. This sounds very interesting. Some people have a lot of problems if they’re vege or vegan in Vietnam because we put meat in everything, and use meat based stock in many soups. I love the sound of that tofu burger – very healthy!

    1. Learning to cook Vietnamese vegan was very interesting! Mhmm, we encountered these problems a few times but mostly being veggie was smooth sailing. We were able to look up a lot of good vegetarian restaurants on Happy Cow and we surprised to find a few in every place we visited (except Yok Don).

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