It wasn’t something we would normally sign up for when traveling. We’ve been all over the word and while we enjoy eating food, we had never thought of learning how to cook it.

When were traveling through China with Intrepid Travel however, one of the activities that was offered during our time in Yangshuo was to take part in a cooking course, so we thought we’d tag along.

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The Day Started at the Market

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The market was alive with activity. It was exactly what you would expect from a traditional Chinese market. Rows of stalls were lined up in the giant hall displaying fresh fruits and vegetables. We didn’t recognize a lot of the produce and were content to listen as our guide explained the use of each leaf, root and stem on the table.

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We thought that we would be prepared when she asked us if we were willing to walk through the live animal market and ignorantly said that we were fine. In Asia, the people don’t try to hide where their food comes from. It isn’t tucked away in windowless factories and packaged in vacuum packed plastic bags to be displayed on our grocery shelves. They don’t use euphemisms like pork and poultry or beef in lieu of pig, chicken and cow. You see your dinner’s eyes while they are alive and well, it can be very traumatizing.

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So if you do a cooking course in China, either be prepared for what you are about to see, or tell your guide that you don’t want to walk through the next room. It is a disturbing sight but it is hypocritical for me to have meat as a part of my diet and judge the people who sell animals for my consumption. I just hope that China works on making animal welfare a priority in the future and from what I understand from all our guides, the younger generation isn’t quite as keen on the practices of their elders.

Back at the School….

The Yangshuo cooking school ended up being a fun afternoon and a great way to find our inner chef. With our emotions melting away, we started off with learning how to make an array of stuffed vegetables. It was also nice to start with a vegetarian dish.

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The class moved at a feverish pace. We had a lot of dishes to cook and there was excitement in the air. The woks were sizzling and smoking while we chopped our veggies with our Chinese Cleavers.

Book a Delicious Discovery journey before 29thFebruary, 2011 and carve 15% off your Mouth Watering Journey with Intrepid Travel 

Dave was a natural cook, so I took my place behind the video camera to capture him slicing and dicing and swirling and twirling.

We had an array of cooking utensils, pots and pans and bamboo dishes in front of our stations. If it weren’t for our instructor I wouldn’t know where to begin!

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We learned how to properly heat a wok and when to toss our fresh vegetables into the sizzling oil.

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We learned how to stuff veggies and mince garlic and ginger and we learned how to sear fish in a smoking hot pan.

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We learned how to properly chop our veggies too! There is a proper time to cut large chunky pieces and another time to thinly slice the vegetable of choice. It is important to think about how each food item will be prepared for each dish.

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We learned about produce from the region and how much spice is just the right amount of spice. You want your food to be filled with flavour. Spice should enhance the dish, not overpower it. However, each person has a different tolerance, so we all tasted our instructors dish after watching the amount of spice she added to decide how much we should put in our own.

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Our afternoon feast consisted of beer battered fish to stuffed tomatoes, cashew chicken and seared vegetables, we had a feast and we cooked it from scratch. It was a satisfying experience to steam and stuff our own vegetables and display it all in one delicious array!

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We learned a lot about Chinese cooking and gained a new appreciation for their fine cuisine. There is a lot of work and preparation involved in preparing the various dishes that were served at our table each day and this in turn made us enjoy our dinners even more during our tour of China.

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It was an amazing way to spend an afternoon. We made such great friends on our Intrepid Travel, Grand China tour and our cooking class helped to bring all of us together quickly. It was still early in our three-week joureny through China when we attended class in Yangshuo and as the saying goes, “Those who cook well together, travel well together!” Ok, there is no such saying but it is a good one, because our group definitely travelled well together after spending an afternoon bonding and eating at the Yangshuo Cooking School.

Intrepid Travel is featuring Delicious Discovery destinations around the world and to celebrate their offering a 10% Discount on one of their featured food experiences. Book Before February 29th to take advantage of this offer.

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Want to the recipe for Yangshuo’s staple dish, Beer Fish or PiJiu Yu

Recipe:

100 grams of fish (firm white with skin on )
2 Tablespoons of peanut oi
Half tomato – chopped
Half Green, half red pepper – sliced
1 tablespoon sliced garlic tops or spring onions
1 tablespoon ginger – sliced
2 cloves garlic- crushed
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
Half Teaspoon of salt
Half a glass of beer.

Heat Wok, Add Oil and Heat. Put fish into wok fish side down, put salt on top of fish. Fry on each side for 3 minutes to make sure the skin is brown. Put all geggies, garlic and ginger on top of fish. Pur on soy sauce and beer, cover for 5 minutes.

Book a Delicious Discovery journey before 29thFebruary 2011 and carve 15% off your Mouth Watering Journey with Intrepid Travel.


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26 Comments

  1. John

    Was the fish alive too when you bought it? Do they kill it there at the market? I think as meat eaters, it’s important to confront where our food comes from, as difficult as it may be. Hopefully they do improve the animal welfare in China though.

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi John, The fish for the cooking school was actually already bought and chopped. We only bought produce at the market. I think that they probably knew it would be too much for us Westerners to buy our food alive and take it back to eat, but I agree with you, as meat eaters we can’t turn a blind eye to where our food comes from. In other parts of the world they don’t sugar coat what we are eating, in the West we are too removed from our food. We have animal welfare problems as well with our chickens in battery cages and slaughter houses so I really should have said that I hope animal welfare improves all around the world.

  2. Stuart Edwards

    Ahhh Beer Fish!

    Really loved Yangshou, saw some pretty awful sights in the market though… (Dogs and cats!)
    Can you believe we didn’t actually do a cookery course in China? I’m ashamed!

    p.s Love the chili shot!

    1. debndave Post author

      Yes, the markets in China can be pretty traumatic. I even felt bad for the scorpions in Beijing that had skewers through them, but only enough to hurt them and keep them alive so that they would squirm. Tough to look at, and yes, it’s difficult for Westerners to see dogs and cats in a food market indeed.

  3. Turtle

    Yum! It looks delicious! I think learning more about spices is one of the most important things for Asian cooking. One day I’d love to do a whole bunch of lessons on just that!

    1. debndave Post author

      Spices are definitely the key to proper Asian Cooking. We learned a great deal in this class and had a lot of fun doing it too. The most fun was filming Dave being a regular old Jamie Oliver:)

  4. Lane

    A cooking class is a great way to learn about a culture. One of the best experiences I’ve had in the past couple of years was a cooking class in Paris. And, now cooking classes have sprung up everywhere, just use Google to locate one.

    1. debndave Post author

      You are so right Lane, food is such a strong part of every culture so to delve into the cooking experience really gives you a first hand experience to the land and it’s people. We had such a great time I think we’ll do more of them on our future travels.

  5. Lorna Denne

    So envious of the lifestyle you have both created for yourselves. But please please tell me you didn’t have to do anything to those turtles of frogs for eatting……!

    The last time I looked closely at a frog that size was Highschool Biology – gag

    Enjoy living the dream!
    Lorna

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  7. James

    Hey Guys, that experience looks amazing. Cooking classes are awesome activities when travelling. I also think it’s real cool that you guys are travelling on an Intrepid Trip, they are an amazing tour operator. Looking forward to your next post, and exploring your older ones. Happy Adventuring!

  8. Ryan

    Looked like a lot of fun. However I think I’d have opted for the vegetarian option – don’t fancy having eye contact with my lunch.

  9. Abby

    I found the food in China to be an absolute mystery. Of all the places to take a cooking class. I bet just the market alone was fascinating!

    1. debndave Post author

      That is a good way to describe the food indeed in China…a mystery. The cooking course helped to understand their cuisine a lot and made for an excellent journey through the country. We ended up really having an amazing dining experience throughout the country since our guide was local and always made the best suggestions of where and what we should eat.

  10. Dana

    Hey Guys – Looks so good, I love the market photo.

    Although I don’t know if I could eat a turtle after looking it in it’s little eyes either….

    Cheers!

    1. debndave Post author

      Don’t worry Dana, we didn’t eat a turtle either. We didn’t have any live animals from the market, although we did eat pork so it had to come from somewhere:(

  11. Vicky

    Great article. My boyfriend and I are planning a 2 year Europe Asia trip to start in the fall and have been following along your site for all sorts of tips and stories. This article I find particularly interesting because aside from travel my life’s passion is food and cooking and I would love to visit various cooking schools during our travels. Currently I have my own food blog but when our trip starts we plan to run a travel website in which I want to continue documenting my culinary adventures as well! I definitely plan on looking into the Yangshuo Cooking School if we make it to that region.

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Vicky, good luck on your upcoming trip, it sounds like it is going to be amazing. 2 Years of constant travel is very exciting. I definitely hope that you make it to Yangshuo, even if you don’t go to the cooking school, it is the most magical place in China. It’s truly beautiful.

  12. Family Travel Scoop

    We loved Yangshuo! Visited with my kids recently and it was the highlight of our trip to China. We have done a few cooking classes around the world, and they are always fun, especially for the kids, it helps them want to try new foods.

    We loved visiting the markets too, checking out the fruits and vegetables you can’t get everywhere. One of our must dos on any trip is to find a fruit stall and try all the fruits we have never seen before!

    Sounds like you had a great trip!

    1. debndave Post author

      That is a great piece of advice. I’m going to do that when I visit my next market. I can’t believe I’ve never thought of that before. I love fruit, so I think that I would love trying them all. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Donny

    It always amuses me how squeamish people can be around animals that are used from food. I am an American of Chinese descent who spent my childhood near San Francisco’s Chinatown. It was a weekly experience to go with my mom to the fish markets (where a live fish is retrieved from a tank and prepared in front of you.) It was quite a *foreign* experience for me back then to see neatly packaged chicken with no heads or feet and fish with no bones. (In short, any meat that did NOT resemble the creature it came from). I think it is imperative that every child be properly taught that the meat you see in the supermarket all used to be part of a living, breathing creature that gave up it’s life to be eaten. (and similarly, that french fries come from potatoes, etc.)

    1. debndave Post author

      Hi Donny, You are absolutely right. In North America we have this idea that if we don’t think about it or if it is tucked away we won’t have to worry about it. We need to realize that our food is killed for us to eat and that it was alive and well, just like the animals in the market before being slaughtered. I don’t think the conditions for cows,pigs and chickens are much better here in North America. I know that people are constantly working to make life better for our livestock, but who knows if it is working because it’s all done behind closed doors.

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