Cooking classes in Hanoi – KOTO

One of the best ways to experience a new city is through your stomach and what better way to do this than by learning how to cook local dishes for yourself. There are lots of cooking classes in Hanoi, but there is one that stands apart from the rest. I recently took a cooking class at KOTO, which is a social enterprise that helps change the lives of street kids and disadvantaged youth.

What is KOTO?

cooking classes in hanoi

 

KOTO stands for ‘Know one, teach one’ with the philosophy that learning is meant to be shared and should be passed on to others. Founder, Jimmy Pham opened the hospitality training centre 10 years ago, and since then they have trained over 600 students in their Hanoi and Saigon training centres. The students gain real-life experience in their two training restaurants, online bakery, cooking classes and catering service – all of which also provide the students with a source of income and welfare.

Naturally, I was keen to experience this for myself. I treated myself to an incredible lunch in the KOTO restaurant in Hanoi – the food is cooked by the students, the drinks prepared by trainee bartenders, and all served by student wait staff. I was so impressed that I immediately booked in for a private cooking class the following day.

What are the cooking classes like? Are they hard?

cooking classes in hanoi

Vietnamese food has to be one of my favourite cuisines so there is nothing I like more than munching on some rice paper rolls and slurping down some pho. While I have prepared fresh rice paper rolls before, they are normally just inventions from my head rather than the real deal. So could I hack it in the kitchen?

Yes! Everyone can when you have a patient and helpful teacher to guide you through the process. My teacher for the day dreams of one day finding a job as a chef in the United States. Her English was impeccable and she was so friendly that it was great to chat with her about her life, KOTO and Vietnam as we wandered through the market buying the fresh produce needed for the class.

What can I learn to cook?

cooking classes in hanoi

There are a few different menu choices so you can pick whichever one tickles your taste buds and meets your dietary requirements. I love street food so picking the Traditional Hanoi street food class was an easy decision – banana flower salad (Nom hoa chuoi), Hanoi style fried pork spring rolls (Nem ran), Beef rice paper rolls with fresh herbs (Pho cuon), BBQ pork cooked two ways (Bun cha) and a traditional dessert soup (che).

My lesson was a full morning, starting with a trip to the local market before we started cooking. Most of the ingredients are pre-chopped for you which means that you don’t have to waste time chopping and peeling. Instead, you focus on the cooking! The class was easy to follow and I was given a recipe book so I could add my own notes as we went along.

It is fun and not too challenging so it is suitable for everyone from experts chefs to complete novices.

I want to eat…. but don’t want to cook….

cooking classes in hanoi

You have two options – either send a friend to the cooking class and ‘accidently’ drop by around lunch time to sample the fruits of their labour.

OR, you can stick to the restaurant downstairs where you can pick for their varied menu, relax and spend the afternoon eating your way through Hanoi.

I want to do more. Can I get involved with KOTO?

In order to achieve their mission, KOTO relies on donations, sponsorship and volunteers. If you work in the hospitality industry and are interested in spending a minimum of three months in Hanoi or Saigon, you might want to consider volunteering with KOTO. This will give the opportunity to get a hands-on experience in Vietnam where you can pass on your knowledge and skills to vulnerable Vietnamese youth.

Have you taken cooking classes in Hanoi?  What is the most delicious dish that you have learned to make while travelling?

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cooking classes in hanoi

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23 Comments
Grassroots Nomad

It was amazing! Because I’m a solo traveller there was only so much I could eat – but they let me take it home with me! So I had a delicious dinner as well 😀

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thetravelpockets

I absolutely love cooking and would love to take this class. I really want to learn how to make Pho!

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Grassroots Nomad

Oooh you will have to visit them! They have a class devoted entirely to cooking different types of pho!

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katy@untoldmorsels

Love this concept and the food looks so delicious. I am really missing my Vietnamese food now we are living in London. I’ve also made a donation to KOTO. Keep up the great work, I can see you are making a difference

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Grassroots Nomad

Thank you so much Katy, that is so kind of you! If you are in London there are a few organisations/businesses I found that do incredible work with the local community. Old Spike Roastery in Peckham works with the local homeless community to train them for careers as baristas (they also work closely with the Big Issue), and Unseen London offer tours of popular areas around London led by the formerly homeless. They are a great way to see an area that you might have visited a thousand times, but from a completely different perspective.

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Patricia

This sounds like a terrific program. I’m not much of a cook, but even I got excited about the possibilities reading this. And your food looked incredible!

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks so much Patricia! I love cooking, but it was so nice that the food was already chopped and peeled – that has to be the worst bit about cooking! I can’t wait until I’m living somewhere where I can buy all these ingredients so I can try out my recipes again 🙂

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Kaylene Chadwell

This looks like a really fun experience! I’ve been wanting to try a cooking class, would be really fun to do while traveling! Your dishes look tasty and beautiful!

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Grassroots Nomad

They are great fun! Normally I join a class with other people and I’ve done a few with my Mum, but solo was a great experience too. It really gave me the opportunity to learn more about their program while also learning to cook new (and delicious) dishes.

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks so much for the tip Marteen – I will actually be in LA for a wedding at the end of the year so I will have to check them out! 🙂

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Ivy

Oooh this looks like so much fun! I LOVE that it’s for a good cause too (plus it looks delicious) Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks so much Jasmine! I love cooking Asian food as well – normally in Australia it is really easy to find all the ingredient, but I’m not having much luck here in Guatemala!!

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Grassroots Nomad

I swear when I leave Guatemala I will never eat beans or eggs ever again!;)

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