For my first cooking school of all time I chose Yangshuo Cooking School in Yanghsuo China, where D and I had been volunteering at an English school for a few days. As my first cooking school experience and my first opportunity in over a month to prepare my own meal I was both giddy and nervous. What if I couldn’t keep up? What if my food didn’t come out right? What if I couldn’t properly mimic all the techniques used? After all sure I love to cook and have a food blog but I have no formal culinary training and had never taken a single cooking class.
How would it go?
Without D to accompany me this was my first independent activity since we started traveling together in September. A whole 5 hours apart from D – how strange to think this would be the longest we had been apart in a month and a half.
And so into the unknown I went alone. I was greeted by Amy – our chef and instructor for the day (all the Chinese take on English friendly names by the way). Our little cooking group consisted of an older Norweigen couple, two older Dutch gentlemen, a younger Israeli couple, and two college students studying abroad in Hong Kong, one girl from Sweden and one from the US.
After a slightly traumatizing market tour (yes, I saw dead dogs and cats scalded, torched and dismembered) we were shuttled to the countryside cooking school.
On the menu were 5 Chinese dishes – the highlight of which was a local Yangshuo specialty – beer fish and my favorite dish of them all.
After a quick cooking demonstration by Amy we set off to work, chopping, dicing, and mincing. Working quickly we had all the raw ingredients prepared and were ready to start cooking.
With the fish caught locally in the Li River, the ingredients grown in nearby farms, and the beer from Guilin, the aromas of the fresh produce instantly filled the room. A generous amount of both ginger and garlic – I knew this dish would be a hit.
Carefully following Amy’s instructions, we worked quickly to get the fish cooked properly, making sure to add all the ingredients at the right time. Within minutes the dish was ready.
The smell was incredible.
The tomato alone was almost overwhelming in how strong and delicious it smelled. It looked almost too good to eat. Impatiently snapping a few quick photos, I took my first bite.
The fish was lightly crispy yet soft, the tomatoes lightly cooked yet still juicy and with the ginger still crunchy the blend of flavors and textures was magnificent. I was incredibly pleased both with myself and the finished dish.
Best of all, the ingredients and preparation are simple enough that this recipe can easily be prepared back home in the US!
The biggest cooking takeaway from the class was that in Chinese style cooking the wok always need to be heated over high heat until smoking, then reduce the heat to low and add the oil. Hot wok, cold oil.
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 100 grams white fish (firm fish with skin on)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 inch piece of ginger, cut into matchsticks
- 1 small tomato cut into 8 sections (cut in half, then each half in half and each quarter in half)
- ½ green pepper, thinly sliced
- ½ red pepper, thinly sliced
- 1-2 green onions, cut into 1 inch long sections
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free)
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
- 4 ounces light beer
- Heat wok over high heat until smoking. Reduce heat to low and add oil.
- Add fish skin side down and increase heat to medium-high. Add salt on top of fish,
- Cook until skin side is browned and crispy. Add garlic and ginger and flip fish over. Use the lid as a cover to prevent oil from splattering.
- Add peppers and tomatoes and lightly mix, without breaking up the fish into smaller pieces. Cover and let cook for a couple minutes.
- Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, and beer. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until fish is cooked through.
- Sprinkle with green onions and serve.