Now we’re cooking with gas :-)

Hey guys the husband here, I thought I would tell you all about the cooking class that I took in Yangshuo.

Things kicked off when we met our teacher at the entrance to the local park, the same park where my wife was learning tai chi. After meeting our teacher the she took us to the local market to show us some traditional Chinese ingredients and introduce us to the ones we would be using later.

First we walked through the veg stalls and saw bags of chillies, ranging from sweet to blow off you head, lotus roots, hollow greens, savory melon and water chestnuts.

After seeing the vegetables we were then given the choice whether or not to go though the meat section of the market. This was very similar to the one we visited in Leshan except I feel the animals were less tied up but there was a lot more cages. Also as my wife mentioned before this meat market included the sale of cats and dogs.

I had mixed feelings about seeing this part but felt it was part of the local culture so pushed on. They weren’t initially very obvious as they were right at the back and you could probably go through the market without realising they were there of you didn’t explore the whole place or get told where to look.

I found the dogs first, they were a mutt sort of bread and were 1 to 3 per cage. The cats were next, a little cage on the floor with 4 or 5 cats lying on each other. In both cases there was a prepared carcass hanging off a meat hook.

It was an interesting experience, not one I think I would want to repeat, and it was a bit much for one younger member of the group who broke down and needed comforting. I had to remind myself about discussions I’d had about eating horses and the fact that some animals are bred for food.

Right on to the cooking.

After the visit to the market we were taken by vehicles to the cooking school. The recent flooding in the area meant that the one in town that was normally used was out of action.

Once we arrived we were taken to dinning room, a wooden gazebo over 3 rows of tables in the back garden of the school, and given some tea and water to drink. Once refreshed we were instructed to wash our hands and head into the class room.

We entered a room with a long ring of tables set out with every thing we would need, a portable gas stove, chopping board, Chinese cleaver and our ingredients. Except the raw fish and chicken, they were brought out as we needed them.

The first thing we did was to make pork dumplings.

We mixed minced pork with chopped spring onion, salt and oyster sauce and then wrapped the mixture in the pre made dough rounds. We were shown the special technique used to close off the dumplings, I may have googled it earlier in the trip as I like to learn how to cook the food I enjoy eating…

Just after delivering our new pride and joys they were whisked away to be batch steamed and would be ready at the same time as the rest of our creations.

The next step on our culinary adventure was to chop all of our ingredients and lay them out ready for cooking, TV chef style (Mise en place). It was at this point that we got the choice of using chilies or not, I opted for one chilli as I was still recovering from eating hot-pot.

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The first dish that we cooked was Yangshou style Eggplant, aubergine for us Brits. This was our starter so once we finished and had it plated up it was of to the dining room.

I have to say I was not a fan of eggplant before the trip, it was one of the items on my foods to avoid list, but I have found that I rather enjoy it. This plateful was no exception as it had such a great chef, lol.

Once we had all eaten our eggplant it was back to the classroom to cook the next three dishes. The plan was that we would cook all three and them eat them together with the dumplings that we made earlier.

The three dishes were beer fish, chicken with cashew nuts and stir fried lettuce with garlic. Once again after we had finished it was off to the dining room to tuck in.

The dumplings were brought out in a large stack and we had to remember the number that was printed on our own baskets to make sure we got that right ones.

Once we had all our food and some rice we dived in. Much like the rest of the food in China it was all delicious 😀

There was a different feeling to this dinner then all the other home cooked meals that we had, I felt much more defensive of my food and there wasn’t any sharing, which was a little sad.

One thing I really liked about the class was it introduced using a spatula to measure liquid ingredients into your wok, a bit like you see chefs do in some restaurants. It raised the question to me of “is there a standard size spatula?”. If so I need to get one when I get home.

This experience was awesome. I really enjoyed the Chinese style of cooking were everything is prepared in advance and cooked so quickly, I will definitely be recreating the dishes with the recipes we were given 😀

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