Learning How to Make Bun Cha at Rose Kitchen Hanoi!

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
You know you are truly obsessed with a cuisine when you want to learn how to cook it. This is precisely why on my third visit to Vietnam—which was last year, in Hanoi—I made it a point to sign up for a cooking class so I could learn how to make my favorite Vietnamese dishes at home.

The first time I had Vietnamese food in Ho Chi Minh, I grew fanatical and eating it has never been the same. Dining in Vietnamese restaurants in Manila seemed like a distant option. Dishes like banh mi that abound fell flat, some even—do I dare say it—disgusting. Everything felt incomparable to what you could find in the streets of Vietnam—and at much cheaper prices too. But for extreme cravings, you simply have no choice. Well, now I have a choice: I can make my own.

Rose Kitchen is a cooking school in Hanoi that prides itself for promoting the sights and smells of Vietnam through its cooking classes and tours. They offer morning (9:00AM – 1:30PM) and afternoon (3:00PM – 7:30PM) classes, and guests get to enjoy complimentary hotel transfers, unlimited drinks, a market tour, and a full meal aside from the cooking lesson itself. I booked my class through KKday, a service provider I trust because they always handle activities flawlessly.

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Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
And so on my last day in Hanoi, I went to the Opera House, the designated meet-up place for the cooking class. Actually, hotel pickup is included in KKday’s package for those staying within the Old Quarter, but since I was not, I had to go to the Opera House. Our guide, Chris, fetched me as well as other participants through a taxi and then took us to a local market, where we would buy the actual ingredients we would be using for the day.

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
The Quan Hoa is a relatively small and peaceful market (unlike the bustling Long Biên Market I went to as part of A Chef’s Tour). There, Chris explained the different vegetables, herbs, and fruits that are typical in Vietnamese cooking. There I stood geekily drinking in everything. We also shopped for some meat to use for our spring rolls and bun cha, a dish that I was so keen to learn on making and thus why I booked this class.

Tip: if you want to replicate these dishes once you get home, make sure you buy some of the ingredients here, i.e. vinegar, fish sauce, and other sauces and seasonings. 😉

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
After completing our ingredients, we then proceeded to Rose Kitchen, which turns out to be a charming house hidden away at the Ba Dinh District. We were welcomed with delicious ginger tea while the kitchen staff and our guide prepared the ingredients. Chris offered us some beer, and told us we can actually drink while cooking. I loved how cozy and homey it was; after seeing the colorful produce laid out, I was super ready to eat!

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
First, we prepared the ingredients for our Nộm Hoa Chuối—or banana flower salad. Chris taught us how to cut our veggies, and demonstrated how to slice and cook the beef we were going to put on the salad as well. The salads, I think, showcase how balanced Vietnamese cuisine is. With this dish, there’s no way you can complain that “it’s all veggies” and that “it is food for goats” (a popular comment from Filipinos)—because you have luscious, medium-rare beef! There’s saltiness and acidity as well, from delicious Vietnamese fish sauce, vinegar, and kumquat juice. I love it.

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
I have acquired some kitchen skills (thanks to a cooking class I did in Chiang Mai two years back), so the next dish was quite a breeze for me. The Nem Rán (or Chả Giò) is the Vietnamese fried spring roll. Similar in a lot of ways to our lumpia, but the rice paper wrapping they use is thinner, and the fillings have a variety of ingredients like mushrooms and shrimps.

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class

Since I make lumpia at home, I was quite confident with my wrapping skills, but I found the Vietnamese roll to be more laborious than shanghai to be honest! There’s vermicelli that has be soaked, drained, and chopped into small pieces. Mushrooms (two types) have to be chopped a certain way. It’s interesting to see how those small differences in ingredients result in entirely different flavors, even though rolls everywhere look the same.

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
And then it was time for the dish I was waiting for: bun cha. Prior to going to Hanoi, I have tried a bun cha recipe I found online but I didn’t quite like the outcome. Now I know the secrets, thanks to Rose Kitchen! But I am not telling you guys, of course, LOL! I highly recommend that you book this cooking class when you visit Hanoi. I can’t believe how simple the dish was, but the catch is that a slight deviation will really make your dish taste different.

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Bun cha is grilled pork with rice noodles, and I learned that typically, two pork cuts are used: belly and shoulder mince. The marinades for both cuts are the same, the vegetable sides and the noodles are the same. But the reason why homemade bun cha doesn’t taste like Hanoi bun cha is that they have this special rack called cái vỉ that holds pieces of meat together while you grill two sides over charcoal. Using this tool, there's a technique to properly grill the pork. And wait—can I emphasize that it has to be charcoal-grilled? Otherwise, you just get flat flavors. It then doesn’t become bun cha, it’s just pork bola-bola which you can dip on ketchup. LOL.

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Wait until you eat those pork slices and patties with basil, lettuce, shiso, cilantro, mint, pickled vegetables, and their special dipping sauce, and you will find yourself finishing that mountain of rice noodles you initially thought as too much. IT’S JUST SO FREAKING DELICIOUS. And you know what, guys? I think I like the recipe here more than the one in the bun cha eatery where President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate. Sorry but this was just so good.

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class

Dessert came in the form of fruits and egg coffee, which I forgot how to make because I was so busy eating bun cha, hahahaha. The last part of the class—the eating part—was definitely my favorite, and I loved how all the participants of the class happily enjoyed what they—we—labored over for almost 5 hours. Chris constantly offered drinks (including some delicious local wine), and like a true Vietnamese, I happily chugged down bia hoi with everything.

Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
Rose Kitchen Hanoi cooking class
I love new experiences whenever I travel, and this cooking class with Rose Kitchen is definitely one for the books. When you find yourself in Hanoi, make sure you try this cooking class especially if you are interested with food and local culture. Not only does it add skill points to your life, it also enriches your travels because of all the new knowledge and insights you take home.

Can’t wait to cook more Vietnamese food!

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Rose Kitchen Hanoi
No.294 Kim Ma Str, Ba Dinh District, Hanoi, Vietnam
(+84) 1645 508 508 / (+84) 9767 68 693

Check out other local experiences in Hanoi here.

Do you love Vietnamese food? What's your favorite dish? What Vietnamese dish can you cook?

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