( house call )
chicken stew with jasmine rice; crispy pork spring rolls on baby gem lettuce; and tofu spring rolls made of rice paper. The deeper we dug into this fresh, fragrant lunch, the more it became clear that this lady is a real pro in the kitchen. “I’ve been cooking since I was seven years old. I’m one of five siblings and, although I wasn’t the oldest, I was the oldest girl – which is really the same thing – so I’d need to cook for them all when my parents were working.” At the time, Noya and her family were living in a Hong Kong refugee camp, having left Vietnam when she was seven. Despite leaving so young, Noya still carries with her the cultural importance of food from her home country. Her kitchen is a central, family-focused space: old photographs sit on the dresser, there’s a long dining table which is large enough for the whole family, and an old, eclectic collection of kitchen tools and crockery. Noya learned a lot about cooking from her mum and dad, eating purely Vietnamese food right up until she left home. That doesn’t mean she’s not adventurous, though. Noya loves experimenting, and encourages others to do the same at her supper clubs and cookery classes. “Whether you’re adventurous or not, it doesn’t matter,” she says. “Just give some new things a go, introduce new flavours. You learn to trust your tastebuds; it’s all about confidence. The best meals I cook, and my favourites, are made from whatever I happen to have left in the cupboards.” It was three years ago now that Noya started her regular supper club in Bath, which takes place at The Bear Pad café on Bear Flat. It’s grown from simply cooking for friends to regularly selling out, thanks to word of mouth (and her authentic, accessible food, we bet). “Lots of people come back to the supper club again and again,” she says. “And there’s always something new to try, as the menu is based on just whatever’s available that day.” Noya also teaches cookery, right here in her own kitchen. If you want to see the kinds of fresh, colourful dishes you can learn to make, then you’re in luck, as we’ve secured the recipe for those summer rolls for you...