When visiting China, we took part in the Yangshuo Cooking School and it was a highlight of our time there.
Chinese Cooking Classes
The Day Started at the Market
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.
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.
Visiting a Chinese Live Animal Market
In Asia, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Dave was a natural cook, so I took my place behind the video camera to capture him slicing and dicing and swirling and twirling.
Enjoy our Yangshuo Cooking School Video
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!
We learned how to properly heat a wok and when to toss our fresh vegetables into the sizzling oil.
We learned how to stuff veggies and mince garlic and ginger and we learned how to sear fish in a smoking hot pan.
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.
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 instructor's dish after watching the amount of spice she added to decide how much we should put in our own.
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!
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.
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 journey 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.
Want to the recipe from our Yangshuo Cooking School'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 veggies, garlic and ginger on top of fish. Pur on soy sauce and beer, cover for 5 minutes.