A Taste of Vietnam

A few months ago I was fortunate to fulfill at least one of my many dreams and travel to Vietnam.  Last year when Karenne from Travelworld Taree suggested I take a cooking tour, I was just a bit more than interested. I wanted a trip where I could get amongst it, where it would be all about the food and the culture with some relaxation time thrown in. Mostly I wanted to learn to cook like the Vietnamese do. My goal was to take a bunch of foodies on a trip that would teach them to cook a great Vietnamese meal and showcase the food of the region.What I wasn’t aware of was that some of the group didn’t think they would be cooking at all, instead they had planned to relax while their partners cooked. I was thrilled that after the first class in Ha Noi everybody cooked their way through Vietnam with great gusto, 

Eugenie, Adrian, Kath, Robert, Chris, Janet, Donna, Penny, Bill and Zung

We were extremely fortunate that our guide for the 2 weeks was as passionate about this country as we were excited to be there, Zung stayed with us for the entire trip, taking us to some of his more local restaurants and showing us behind the scenes. Zung will be our guide next year and I look forward to meeting with him again.

Our first experience with Vietnam was flying into Ho Chi Min City with fabulous views of the Mekong Delta, amazing snakelike waterways weaving their way around the tapestry of rice paddies and crops. We flew straight to Ha Noi to get some rest before our cooking lesson and tour of the Hom Cho (markets) the next day.  

Our teacher for the day was Miss Mo and she took us to the local markets where we were introduced to a vast array of seafood, meats and exotic fruit, along with many motorbikes tearing through the bustling market place threatening to knock us over. We survived the first of many of these experiences and I grew to enjoy the craziness. Ha Noi is a bustling city but it has a less hassled feel than other Asian cities I have visited. 

Being in the food industry, I was a little unsure of the meat that sat all day on tables without any refrigeration, collecting dust from the road. I secretly hoped that we were not going to be cooking this meat. I had a giggle to myself as I thought of what Josh, the local health inspector would make if it. 

Our first day of cooking was held at Hoa Sua Vocational Training School where economically disadvantaged youth learn to be chefs and hospitality workers. The kitchen where we spent the day was alongside the commercial kitchen and the students were quite interested in what we were doing there. Our menu was to deep fried Vietnamese spring rolls, sweetcorn soup, rice noodles with grilled pork and for dessert we made mung beans in syrup. It was a most enjoyable day and we were all extremely thrilled with our first day of cooking


A while between blogs

Here we are in November, the weather has warmed up, the race that stops a nation is done and dusted for another year so its time to think about Christmas. At Bent, we have been thinking about it for a while with beautiful gifts in Bent on Life just waiting for you to come and find them. We are working on our gourmet hampers for 2011 and busily printing up gift vouchers for the cookery school, the café and Bent on Life. Christmas party bookings are coming in and we even have a few corporate cooking classes booked. Cooking is a great team building exercise and afterwards you get to sit down together and eat the fruits of your labours with a nice glass of wine.
This month we say farewell to our chef Greg Puglisi who is moving to Far North Queensland for a change of career and we welcome Michael James. Michael is well known in the area as he operated the Bunker restaurant at Tallwoods. We are looking forward to working with Michael and we are excited to have his skills in our team at Bent on Food. A new, exciting menu will be launched soon. Michael begins work with us on Wednesday 9th November.

Mid North Coast Hinterland Experience

Andrew and Therese with guests at Near River

Our first Mid North Coast Gourmet Hinterland Experience in conjunction with the Crave Sydney International Food Festival was held on the 29th and 30th October. The guests travelled to Near River, a sustainable farm growing biodynamic rhubarb, garlic and a vast number of seasonal crops, learnt about composting and biodynamic practices,  and enjoyed banana bread with Hastings Valley yoghurt and Near River rhubarb, lime and ginger compote (available at Bent on Food) in the garden.

Linga Longa

Rhonda and Stephen

We then travelled down to Bago Vineyards where we tasted some wine and spoke to Alistair and Kate from Black Duck Brewery, a few beers were sampled before we headed back to  Linga Longa at Wingham to find out why happy cattle produce better beef.  Here we met the chooks and had more delicious  food with Lauren and Greg. 
Garlic at Near River
Then it was back to check on the suckling pig for dinner. In the evening, 30 people gathered at the cookery school at a long white table to savour 4 courses of local food and Cassegrain wine all from within a 100 mile radius. Greg cooked up a storm, with local oysters, cheeses, produce, beef and pork all on the menu. To see the menu, click here. The following day we enjoyed a 100 mile cooking class conducted by chef Eric Robinson with free range eggs, asparagus and baby spinach all from Near River and locally smoked bacon from Mentges Meats in Taree. Eric showed us how to make the perfect hollandaise and we enjoyed local strawberries and Marrook Farm Quark with The Other Chef Toffee Apple Syrup for a brunchy dessert.

Greg and Lauren with guests at Linga Longa

Mmm this little piggy is looking divine
Check – table is set
Stone Oysters 3 ways with Cassegrain Edition Chardonnay Pinot
Linga Longa Beef Carpaccio with Marrook Farm Brinawa and Wilmaria  EVOO
Lis and Vern Harvey

Grahame and Greg with the suckling pig

Hastings Pannacotta with Near River Rhubarb, Lime and Ginger compote


Eric showing us how to make the perfect hollandaise

Brunch cookery class with  Eric Robinson

Brunch is local strawberries, white mulberries, Marrook Farm
Quark with The Other Chef Toffee Apple Syrup


Eric and class