Cruising with Indochina Sails not only saved travel time, but was also the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of Halong bay, Vietnam. After a relaxing, awe-inspiring day on the boat, the novelty of the trip by no means wore off as we were gathered around a table to experience the Vietnamese tradition of food carving. Back home, carrots look like carrots and tomatoes are far from exciting. Anchored in the middle of the beautiful Halong Bay, however, these vegetables took on a whole new lease of life as they were transformed in front of our eyes into impressive and surprising forms. Everyones cameras were at the ready to film the chef’s skilful work, ambitiously hoping to later try it at home. Talking from experience, it’s much harder than it look
In a matter of what seemed like seconds, the tomato was magically carved into the shape of a rose - fresh, bright and juicy. The chef of Indochina Sails explained exactly what he was doing as he cut and, since many of the other guests on the boat were French, their French translator translated what he had said, adding an even more exotic feel to the experience. Next on the menu was a lotus flower, carved from a carrot - things were moving up a notch! Last but not least, the humble apple was turned into a majestic swan. I wish I could remember exactly how, but I guess some things should be left to the experts. In the space of 20 minutes, the table which we were seated around had been transformed from an array of fruit and vegetables into a scene of the natural world, but edible! Although, we all agreed that the work of art was too beautiful to eat!
Then it was time for the guests to get involved with preparing traditional Vietnamese spring rolls and, after having watched the food carving, we were all itching to get up and try our hand. Plus, we’d worked up an appetite by this point so were very happy to hear that we could eat our own handmade delicacies. The boat’s chef demonstrated first; he laid out flat the outer sheet and, from a large plate of assorted fillings, he showed us the correct quantity of each to put in so that the spring roll wouldn’t be too full or too empty. Amongst the choice of fillings were the obligatory rice vermicelli, grated carrot and cucumber, salad leaves, fresh prawns and fresh herbs.
The last step - the all-important rolling of the spring roll - was an art to be perfected. Of course, my boyfriend was a little too generous with his fillings and ended up hardly being able to close his spring roll! Mine, on the other hand, was a pretty successful attempt! The traditional dipping sauce that accompanies these Vietnamese fresh spring rolls is a beautiful blend of vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, garlic and chilli. It’s sweet, sour and salty flavour makes the spring roll taste even better and we were told that it’s an absolute staple of Vietnamese cuisine - I could absolutely see why!
The food carving and the spring roll lesson made for a thoroughly enjoyable interactive evening activity. There’s nothing like a hands-on experience to create amazing, lasting memories. Followed by a cocktail on the top deck of Indochina Sails cruise as the sun went down over the bay, this was one of the highlights of my Halong Bay trip.