After lunch on Valentine's Day, Andrew and I hopped on the bus and headed to Beijing. We arrived late in the evening, checked into our hotel, and then went to the Sanlitun ex-pat area to meet up with a fellow Californian, Adam, for dinner at Luga's Mexican Villa. We splurged and gorged ourselves on fajitas, nachos, tacos, and enchiladas. It was heaven! I'm so jealous of all you people back home who can have Mexican food whenever you want. It's definitely the food we miss most when we're abroad.
The next morning, I got up early, fighting a margarita hangover, and we went to our cooking class at Hias Gourmet. This was a Christmas present from Andrew's mom, but we hadn't had time to get to Beijing until my birthday. First, we took a market tour and learned about the different spices, sauces, and vegetables used in Chinese cooking. We also found water chestnuts, something we've been trying to find since we got here. It was freezing, and because of Spring Festival, there weren't a lot of vendors out at the market, but at least we got a lot of nagging questions answered (why are some eggs blue? what is the long green vegetable with a flower at the top?).
Next, we had a private session on seasonings. Our teacher showed us the differences between soy sauces, vinegars, and cooking wines. Now we know what to look for when we go shopping!
Finally, we started our four hour cooking class. We were joined by four Australian women who lived in Beijing. They were fun and rowdy, and gave us lots of great advice on where to shop and what to see in Beijing.
Our first dish was Braised Chicken with Ginger and Broad Bean Paste. This one took the longest to cook, so we just watched the instructor prepare everything. The guy was very talented with a cleaver, which he used for everything, from cutting chilis to peeling garlic and mincing onion.
Our next dish was Stir-Fried Pork with Sweet Flour Sauce. We had thought this was going to be sweet-and-sour pork, but it was something completely different, but still tasty!
Our favorite dish was Fish Flavored Pork, which didn't actually taste anything like fish, but was cooked with pickled chilis, thus imparting a slightly sour taste often associated with fish. It also had some black mushrooms and overall, a more complicated ingredient and preparation list.
The last dish we made was Three Treasures, one of our staple foods here in Qinhuangdao. It consists of eggplant, potato, and bell pepper stir-fried with soy sauce and oyster sauce, and it's absolutely delicious. It's probably the most popular dish in the north of China, but doesn't seem to exist in Chinese restaurants in the US. I've included the recipe here for you guys to try at home. You should be able to find all the ingredients at any grocery store.
1 large eggplant
1 bell peppers
(these veggies should equal about 500g, or 1 pound)
spring onion, minced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. rice wine (optional)
100 mL water (almost 1/2 cup)
1. Mix soy sauce, oyster sauce, salt, sugar, and rice wine in a bowl.
2. Cut potatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers into 1/4" thick slices.
3. Heat oil in a frying pan or wok, and when the oil is hot, add eggplant. Cook until browned, and slightly soft. Remove the eggplant, add more oil, and add the potatoes. Cook in the same way at the eggplant, and then remove. Repeat with green peppers. Remove.
4. Add spring onion and garlic and saute for one minute. Add all vegetables. Add the sauce.
5. Finally, pour in water, cover, and cook on high for about 5 minutes, until the water is gone.
Hao Chi "How Chuh" (Delicious)