Chopping and cutting…
Day 74/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. A sea day..last before Vietnam.
What a fun day! Wow! It is amazing how busy a sea day can be and considering we have had lots of sea days, it still surprises me on how active we are on sea days!
We had breakfast via room service again this morning. It is a nice habit we are in, since I have never been one to get up and go for breakfast in the morning, preferring to relax, if I can with a tea, unless of course I have a tee time! So having breakfast delivered and then getting ready for the day after we’ve eaten. has worked out well for us. I tried my new coconut milk yogurt we bought in Indonesia (that I am keeping in our room fridge), and it is nice, not too sweet and it works well with the berries I order from room service.
We were very excited about our morning today since we were going to cooking class finally! A ‘Voyage to Vietnam’ was the name of the class and we were to meet outside Manfredi’s restaurant at 10am. We waited inside Manfredi’s for the Chef to come and get us after we had signed a waiver saying we were not sick, nor had we had any intestinal bugs in the past two weeks.
Manfredi‘s was set up for a Cabernet Sauvignon wine tasting which was going to take place later that day. We have not signed up for a wine tasting yet, but I keep encouraging Richard to go and do one, one day when I am in Art Class.
I was going to search these wines on Vivino to see how they were rated, but with the poor internet it is just too frustrating. I know someone who might do that though, that reads the blog, and who can give me a full report. (RP)
Aldo, the Chef from Peru came and got us from Manfredi’s and we entered the hallowed grounds of ‘The Kitchen Table’.
Now this is a part of the ship we have not been to before!
At each place in The Kitchen Table was a brand new Viking Cooking School apron (which we got to take with us), the recipes we would be making today, a pencil, a cutting board and knife and 2 towels to use to wipe our hands.
Our friend Cindy (from K.C.) in the blue and white striped top had been to cooking school before on the ship and motioned for us to come down and sit near her. She said the best seats are at the far end, as we would be closer to the chef when he was explaining what he was doing.
Everyone washed their hands with soap and water and then put on latex gloves. When presented with latex gloves, I asked if they had non latex gloves as I have an allergy to latex, and the staff were able to find me some non-latex gloves.
The ingredients for the day’s feast were all set out on the sideboard beside our big prep table. The sideboard also happens to be an induction cooktop with burners controlled by the knobs that stick out below the countertop. I got a really great idea for our next home from looking at this set up! Imagine a kitchen with a counter that is also the cooktop, but can double as a counter?!! Amazing!
Chef said that the first thing he was going to prepare was the beef flank steak as it had to marinade, so because he needed chopped garlic, and ginger, everyone was given something to chop. I was given the task of peeling and chopping the Asian pears into small cubes. Richard was given the job of cutting baby corn cobs in half lengthwise.
Chef prepared the steaks by making the marinade right on the steak, instead of making a marinade in a bowl and then putting the marinade on the beef. He also used sheet pans for resting the beef in the marinade and he massaged the beef with the marinade on both sides before setting it aside to let the flavours penetrate the meat.
Once the beef was marinating, it was time to focus on preparing the dessert which was going to be a ’Caramel Mousse de Tapioca with mango cream and ginger cookies’. We had to get the caramel mousse prepared and put into the pyramids so that it would freeze until set; as well as prepare the ginger cookie dough for baking. If we waited too long to make the dessert, it never would have set in time for us to enjoy it for lunch. My job in the dessert process was to add the candied ginger to the tops of the cookies before they went into the oven. The ginger was sticking to the gloves I was wearing.
Adding the sticky candied ginger to the tops of the cookies.
After the dessert was underway, Chef brought out the chicken stock that he had prepared and simmered overnight. It had already strained the stock before he brought it out for us to look at. The stock was made with leeks, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions salt and pepper, water and 3 whole chickens. Chef had a huge soup pot, which had reduced by 2/3rds from simmering overnight. At this point Chef removed the chicken and added the ingredients that we had prepared like ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, star anise, cloves, mushrooms and green onions and put the pot, with more water added onto the stove to simmer.
It was now time to sear the beef flank steak in the kitchen. The Viking Neptune has no open flame cooking, but they do have a cooktop griller that Chef had up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit! He had done 2 pieces of flank steak because one person in our class was gluten free so their piece of steak had gluten free soya sauce as a marinade and no teriyaki sauce
Chef is preparing his grill in behind. I am pointing to the very large Le Cruset roasting pans resting on the counter top. I love Le Cruset pots, but they are very heavy, and I could not even lift one of these pots!
After searing the beef for about 90 seconds on each side, Chef passed the beef off to one of his colleagues, to finish up the beef at a lower temperature.
Our next step was to debone the chicken and take all the meat off it. Two people volunteered for that messy job. Usually Richard does that in our house when I cook a whole roasted chicken or when I buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Chef had actually used 3 whole chickens in the stock because the stock pot was so big but was only using one chicken for our soup. It was now time to prepare the soup bowls and add chopped chicken, thinly sliced red onion, fresh mint leaves, fresh bean sprouts, and thinly sliced green onions. Into each bowl that had been prepared, Chef then ladled some broth and added a lime wedge to the side of the bowl. It was after 1pm when we finally started to eat and we had started cooking class at 10am!
Adding some lime juice to the soup.
The Pho Ga was delicious! The soup had a nice smoky flavour to the broth and when asked, Chef said that was because he added tomatoes to the stock. Because some people do not like spicy food, chef did not add as many hot chili peppers as we would like, so we both added more to the finished soup.
Our main course was supposed to have mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, but instead our chef chose to do a rustic pan fried mash potatoes eliminating the cream and adding finely chopped fresh rosemary. He fried the potatoes in olive oil and then added butter as the potatoes were frying. He used a fork to lightly press down and mash the potatoes. For those of you who love potatoes this was a great technique!
The baby corn that Richard sliced alongside pea pods cut lengthwise. Chef at the last minute made a salsa for the beef with red onions, cherry tomatoes, Asian pear (that I had chopped), regular onion, lemon, lime, chopped mint and red chili peppers. The beef was delicious but for Richard he found it a tad undercooked as he prefers his beef medium, rather than medium rare. There was no way I could finish all of this meal, but it was delicious and I had to save room for dessert.
Caramel Mousse pyramids which had been flash frozen.
Ginger cookies! With mango cream, raspberry sauce, mangos and caramel sauce.
Chef putting the final touches on the dessert with some caramel sauce. The presentation was a feast for the eyes!
TAH DAH! Caramel Mousse de Tapioca with mango cream and a ginger cookie. The dessert was delicious. I do not like tapioca having been forced to eat it as a kid, but this dessert was ok. The tapioca in the caramel mousse was nice. Chef asked us if we knew where tapioca was from, and I realized I had no idea! Tapioca is the starch extracted from the cassava root which is a tuber native to the North and Northeast regions of Brazil. Tapioca is gluten free.
Since this was our first cooking class on the Neptune, I was not really sure what to expect. The cost was $59 per person. I enjoyed learning about the various techniques the chef used; making the marinade right on the beef and massaging it into the beef, was one I will use in the future. The way he sifted the flour into the cookie dough and stirred it by hand was interesting and I could use that technique in the future. He also gave us a tip about fatter rice noodles which are used for pad thai and suggested soaking them in cold water so they do not fall apart when cooking them for pad thai. I have always soaked rice noodles in boiling water and I have noticed my pad thai noodles do break apart when adding them to the pad thai sauce. If you are not a cook or baker, then you would learn a lot from the class. I learned a little and watched a lot as opposed to other cooking classes that I have taken at Sur La Table for example in Tampa, where I was much more hands on with all of the food prep. Regardless, the 4.5 hours was a good way to pass away a sea day and the meal at the end of the class was one of the best I’ve had on the Neptune because it was prepared for 12 people, vs 900 people. I’m not sure we will sign up for another cooking class bit I’m glad we did it and we can say we visited the Viking Neptune’s ‘The Kitchen Table’ for a fabulous cooking experience!
Well we finally rolled out of The Kitchen Table around 1:30pm and I had to head straight to Art Class up a level at the Restaurant (port side) on 2. I was absolutely stuffed, and did not feel like sitting for an hour, but I wanted to go to art. We only have 5 sessions with this new teacher doing paper cut outs, and I did not want to miss any of her classes.
Our inspiration for today’s work of art was lotus flowers and water lilies..
Inspirational pictures for us to look at before we went and created our own piece of artwork.
I was inspired by this piece of art. The question was do I do the piece as if I am looking straight down at it, or looking at it sideways?
I went with the sideways view. The teacher apparently really liked the crinkled tissue paper I did on the piece which added depth and texture to the 2 dimensional artwork. I was sitting next to Lyle and he said he was going to add a dragonfly to his artwork, so I said well I’m adding a lady bug then! Linda, Lyle’s wife decided after hearing both of us, she was going to add a butterfly. Whenever Lyle says, “Do you think I should….?” I say remember this Lyle, “Its art. Do what you want! There are no rules, or if there are they are meant to be broken?” HAH!
When I got back to the cabin, Richard had just been to the gym, and it was now my turn to go and workout. After such a heavy lunch, I had already decided I was not eating dinner!
As soon as I got to the gym, the ship started rocking and rolling.
It is quite the adventure cycling with a ship that is pitching back and forth.
Riding the recumbent bike. I did 33 minutes on the interval session today.
I had to get back from the gym though before 5pm, because Mike and Sharon were hosting Lyle and Linda, Richard and me to share the bottle of champagne that we were awarded for our 3rd place finish in the boat building contest. I forgot to take photos of the spread Sharon had ordered from room service, but there was various cheeses, jams, breads, grapes, and we brought over some green olives, hummus, and whole wheat and gluten free crackers from our pantry stash. It was very nice to have a get together without working on building our ship. As Sharon said last evening “It felt kind of normal to host a cocktail party.” At this point in the cruise I think all of us are missing something we do at home. After today, I realized how much I missed cooking and baking. I am still really enjoying this, once in a lifetime cruise, but there are things I really miss. Like being able to just go outside for a walk for example. Walking around the ship, is not the same as being on terra firma, so I’m really looking forward to the next 4 days in Vietnam where I know we will be walking a lot and seeing so many new sights and sounds.
My Cooking class chopping and Art class cutting today were great ways to spend time on a day at sea, but I need some land days now. I’m glad the long number of consecutive sea days we had earlier in the cruise are behind us for awhile. We’ve got just over 2 months left on the cruise and lots of exotic places still to see and experience which is still so very exciting, despite the need I feel sometime to not be so contained, and get off the ship to walk on terra firma. I do not think I could ever live on a cruise ship, which is what we were talking about at the cocktail party today. “LIfe at Sea Cruises” just announced they are offering voyagers and adventurers a chance to live and travel the world on a cruise ship for three years. The price for a three year commitment is $29,999US per year, ($2,499/month) payable over time, and the total length of the cruise is 1,095 days visiting all 7 continents, and 135 countries, making the cruise ship your home at sea. The MV Gemini has 400 cabins and can accommodate 1,074 passengers. For people who want to work while aboard the ship, there are 14 office spaces available, a business centre, meeting rooms and a business library. The ship will offer international resident status to the residents aboard. Free medical is offered as well as a 24 hour on-call hospital. There are also guest cabins for friends and family who can join you for a time on your trip, but they have to pay local port taxes and fees. If you are interested sign up because the cruise starts November 1 from Istanbul, Turkey and picks up guests in Barcelona, Spain and Miami, Florida. I think I will pass on this lifestyle for now, but it definitely got some ‘buzz’ around the ship this week when the word came out about this week in the online press.
I would be remiss if I did not share with you the recipes from today. Please excuse all of my notes scrawled all over the recipes.
And as I finish up this blog today, we are sailing in the really brown, murky waters of the South China Sea as we soon will approach Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon). I cannot wait to explore this country which I heard so much about since I was a young child, when I kept hearing about the Vietnam War on the evening news. My Uncle Joe from Texas served in the U.S. Airforce in Vietnam and while he has since passed, I know he flew on the C5A’s and he was responsible for bringing servicemen and women killed in action home to the U.S.A. Living in Dover, Delaware where there was an airforce base, he also worked part time at a mortuary. I never really understood what he saw and did in the Airforce as a child, but I know that many Vietnam Vets never got the recognition they deserved because of the sentiments at home in the U.S. at the time they returned from Southeast Asia. Yesterday on board the Neptune a service was held to remember and commemorate the U.S. Vietnam veterans who served and were on board the Neptune. They were each presented with a Vietnam Veteran’s Pin to wear with pride to thank them for their service in Vietnam. We watched the ceremony from our stateroom and I learned a lot from listening to the Rear Admiral who spoke and who is also travelling on the ship. The U.S. is now trying to make right the fact that these vets were not celebrated and yesterday’s service was an official U.S. federal ceremony.
Ceremony for Vietnam Veterans on the Neptune.
I know a lot has changed in Vietnam in 55+ years, and exciting adventures await us after we dock around 12:30pm today. I can’t wait to share with you photos and stories of our time in Vietnam!