For the last 2 day's I've been trying to get Victoria to set me up with a Ho Chi Min City chef, to complete my research. Well, I shouldn't have been surprised when she called this morning at 7 to tell me that she had arranged for me to participate in a cooking demonstration at, are you ready for this, the REX HOTEL, one of the most famous hotel's in Saigon during the war.
It was built in 1927 during the French occupation, and during the war it housed military officials and war correspondents from 1961 thru 1975.
I's now a posh hotel and restaurant complex in the 1st district about a 5 minute ride from the hotel we're at. The Royal Court Restaurant where the demonstration was to take place is a beautiful traditional Vietnamese adorned facility. The walls are decorated with murals, and sculptures of the history and legends that are Vietnam and it's culture. One relief in particular that was pointed out to me by the general manager, Mr. Giac, showcased a scene of a teacher instructing his student's in a classroom. The picture reminded me of a saying, as thing's change they always seem to stay the same.
After the brief tour we were escorted to a beautifully set table to the side of the main floor. The executive sous Chef Mai began to setup a station adjacent to our table, complete with a 2 burner stove and various prearranged and preprepared foods for the demo.
I watched as Chef Mai prepared two classic dishes from the southern region of vietnam, Banh Khoai, a deep fried pancake prepared and served to the king as an everyday dish in the fourteenth century. The second was, Cha Gio, a deep fried spring roll also found only in the south. The best part of the demonstration, was the practical participation I was offered.
The 3 hour class ended with a full lunch of other dishes, including a wonderful hot pot, I plan to incorporate in my Asian Cuisine chapter.
All in all, I feel I've accomplished what I set out to do in my research. Now the hard part.