Chinese Cooking

“So, what’s after the omelette?” I didn’t realize people were waiting for more until happy hour last night, so thanks to my friends for the kick in the bum to get me back on my blogger! A trip to China and playing catch up delayed this next post, but I’m back with some stories to share. First up, my cooking class in Beijing:

the cooking group

I had heard of friends taking cooking classes on trips and since I was solo on this vacation, I figured it would be a great thing to do to learn a little bit about the food and culture around me. There were many to choose from and I ended up going with Hutong Cuisine after reading several good reviews, and it did not disappoint. It’s run by a family out of their home so it had this great family feel while providing new tips and knowledge. There were 8 of us in the class, 4 people on a tour from Australia, a JET student from Japan, and a Japanese girl with her mother. We each got an apron, a cleaver and our own chopping board. 5 dishes were on the menu – 3 of which were cooked by our teachers for the whole class, and 2 for which we did all the prep work and cooking!

getting some lessons

For the group:
– Braise pork rib with chili and fermented black bean
– Stir fry beef with big spring onion
– Stir fry spinach with garlic
Cooked by me:
– Black pepper beef
– Fish flavor eggplant (braise eggplant with pickled chili)
clever use of the wok’s concave shape

I think the most surprising thing for me about this Chinese cooking was how easy it was. We didn’t use super exotic ingredients, but it was just flavors and techniques I don’t use often. There was a lot of ginger, garlic, scallions & soy sauce – and of course the wok and cleaver are essentials in the Chinese Kitchen. I think even without the wok though, these flavors can be replicated easily at home.

my turn!

My favorite dish was the Black Pepper Beef stir fry with peppers – we ‘marinated’ the beef with some soy sauce, corn starch, salt, and cooking wine. You mix it with the strips of meat, and because of the cornstarch you end up with a thick sauce after cooking. The sautewith the peppers included ginger, garlic, soy sauce and a hefty portion of ground black pepper. Overall, very familiar Chinese flavors, but so much better b/c I made it!

Black Pepper Beef

I would say the most surprising dish was the eggplant. I’m not a huge eggplant fan because it can be slimy if not prepared properly. Rather than your typical quick stir fry, the vegetable was cooked a little slower with pickled chilies, ginger and garlic, and it was just delightful – not slimy at all. I will definitely give another shot to eggplant now that I know it has potential.

Eggplant

Taking this class was probably in my top 5 favorite things in Beijing. It was fun to be in this traditional home, meeting locals and chatting with other people who loved food and were excited to learn more. Until I commit to buying a wok of my own, I’m going to have to try out these fabulous Chinese flavors in my American cookware and see what happens.

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