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If Mango 1 and its fairyland courtyard wasn’t enough to get us to Mango 2 (Green Mango sister restaurant in Hanoi), the sign outside the fabulous old wooden building advertising ‘the happiest hour’ extending from 12 – 8pm tipped us over. You can eat downstairs or drink around the central bar but we opted to dine solo upstairs on the wooden verandah overlooking the lantern lit street below. We thought we might be forgotten on our lonesome but the waitress was always attentive and appeared whenever she needed to.

happy hour

The food was beautifully fresh and well prepared – scallops you had to dislodge gently from the shell, banana blossom salad with chicken with perfectly balanced dressing, and excellent pork bun cha (patties). We were impressed by the waitress’s interest in the food and after a discussion about the various herbs, she appeared with a plateful of herbs to taste and identify, now with the chef in tow to join in the chatter. We were sold and booked in to do a cooking class there the next night

Wine is an expensive challenge in Vietnam for Mr T and myself (well, me mainly as he can happily opt for cheap and cheery beer). The limited stock of house red had disappeared already but we were allowed to try a couple of glasses of Argentinian malbec as a replacement. As we watched from the verandah, torrents of rain bucketed down around us, causing a quick inward shuffling of the table, but above the rain I was delighted to hear an espresso machine in the background and finished off with a real cappuccino – served hot and beautifully creamed.

… and then we did the cooking class

A great fun night – a two hour cooking class then eating the 5-course spoils afterwards. Surprised to discover our instructor was Hai, chef and owner of three Green Mango restaurants in Vietnam, and that we were the only two in the class. Hai was a delight who is clearly passionate about food and his work (you’d have to be to have three), and gave excellent explanations of the technique in each step, information about ingredients and alternatives if some aren’t available in your local area. Picked up some fabulous tips and techniques. We received recipes afterwards by email (useful as the session is pretty full on) although we are finding the instructions difficult to follow in places and not consistent with our memory of cooking. There is, however, the offer to follow up by email with any queries. Completed the evening by sharing food, drinks and stories with Hai – for some hours.

There’s a choice of three menus, including a vego option. Our menu included fresh spring rolls with shisho, jicama and mango, pho with beef, banana blossom salad with poached chicken, eggplant vermicelli salad  and mango sticky rice. There’s that mango again. You can also include a market trip if you want. Fantastic.

Good value and great fun and a highlight of our Hoi An visit. There’s a flood of restaurants doing cooking courses, but this one is serious about the food (as is the restaurant) and passing on technique and knowledge so you can incorporate it into your own cooking. Very pleased when the evening started with a compulsory washing of hands by all participants – hygiene duly noted. If you’re there, give it a go.

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