There’s no better way to get a real taste of China than to learn to cook the local cuisine. You might think you know Chinese dishes, but dumbed down Sweet and Sour Pork or Chop Suey that you get at home doesn’t really cut it, as Rebecca Webb discovered in Yangshuo…
“Located in a farmhouse, set amidst the famous and spectacular scenery of the Guilin region, the Yangshuo Cooking School was a fantastic experience. The day started with a trip to the local market, where our teacher walked us through the aisles of different vegetables and spices that are common in Chinese cuisine.
After the short ride back to the cooking school we were suited up in class aprons and staked our claim at a cooking station. The patient, talented instructors were great at explaining everything and made the whole experience so much fun. After a few basics about wok-cooking, it was our turn to make some magic. Having sampled so many delicious Chinese dishes on this trip, it was obvious that what I order from my local Chinese restaurant at home has definitely been modified for western palates. So now it was exciting to learn what actually goes into the real recipes – and I couldn’t wait to make them back home!
Once the cooking gets started it was all very fast-paced. Chinese cooking is high heat and very quick, so things really got going when we started throwing things in the wok and hoped for the best. When we finished with the 5 dishes we all grabbed ice cold beers and sat outside around a big table. We indulged in our culinary creations while being surrounded by the limestone karst mountains and watching farmers with their water buffalo sowing the rice for the upcoming season.
There was lots of “Try mine! Try mine!” going around the table, as everyone was convinced theirs was the best and of course, the inevitable group photo holding our cleavers. It was a great (and delicious) way to get some local knowledge hands on, and since returning home I’m still impressing my friends with my favourite recipe that I’m happy to share with you here!”
Eggplant With Soy and Oyster Sauce (serves 4 as side dish)
1/2 lb Asian eggplant (1 large)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 teaspoons minced peeled ginger (a 1- by 1/2-inch piece)
1/2 teaspoon chile paste
1/2 teaspoon fermented black beans, rinsed well
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 scallions (spring onions), white and green part cut into 3-inch lengths and thinly sliced lengthwise
Cut eggplant crosswise into 3-inch lengths, then halve pieces lengthwise. Cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Heat wok over high heat until it smokes. Add oil, swirling pan to heat evenly, then add eggplant and stir-fry, spreading slices around bottom and sides of wok to help brown until eggplant is softened and browned on the edges, about 2 minute.
Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add chile paste and fermented black beans and stir-fry 30 seconds more.
Add water, oyster sauce, and soy sauce and stir-fry until eggplant is coated with a thickened sauce, 1 to 2 minutes. Add scallions and stir-fry 30 seconds more.
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* photo by Erik Seket – Intrepid Photography Competition