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Posts Tagged ‘Every Grain of Rice’

Cooking Class in Beijing,  2008

Cooking Class in Beijing, 2008

I admit, I rarely cook Chinese food at home. Despite having taken several cooking lessons in Beijing, I seldom dust off the wok.   The reasons are not unreasonable:    too many ingredients  that can be too hard to find.    Too much prep which goes along with too much clean up.  There is also a considerable amount of technique involved as well as some specialized equipment.  And when you are finished, there are all those barely used bottles of esoteric condiments mouldering in your fridge  and bags of spices that will gather dust in your cupboard, growing more mysterious with every passing year.

It is simply easier to pick up the phone and order your favourite special combo #4. But you can get tired of the usual Moo Goo Guy Pan,  sticky sweet Lemon Chicken and my particular weakness,  curry laden Singapore Noodle. (Most Chinese meals end with a starch:  Singapore Noodle ends with me asleep in a carb induced coma)

Enjoying Tea & Vegetables at a Yunnan restaurant

A Tea Toast at a Yunnan restaurant 2008

When I was staying  in Beijing for a summer, Emily, Younes and I would come home most nights, open up the TimeOut (a weekly English language entertainment magazine) and decide on which type of regional cuisine we would enjoy that evening, (from Shanghai, Yunnan, Hunan, Mongolian hot-pot)  and then rip out the name and address of a specific restaurant to give to the taxi driver. In eight weeks, we never ate at the same place twice. And we never cooked Chinese cuisine at home.

Anyone who has ever studied the Chinese language knows that Chinese folks talk about food more than any other topic, to the point that in some parts of northern China, people greet one another with “Have you eaten?” (chifanle meiyou) rather than “Are you well?” (ni hao?).  Jonathan Lipman, Department of History, Mount Holyoke College

The Inspiration for the Class

The Inspiration for the Class

But a recent cooking class at Casa de Cocinas has given me motivation to retrieve the wok from the back of the cupboard.  Michael and Valarie Coon run this very special cooking school in San Miguel de Allende that focuses on global cuisine.  In a  fast paced  three-hour session entitled A Taste of China , Michael prepared  recipes from  Fuchsia Dunlop’s  “Every Grain of Rice”.  Fuchsia, who deserves to be more well-known outside of Britain,  is considered to be the best writer in the West on Chinese food. She also crafts recipes for delicious, authentic Chinese meals that the home cook can create in their own kitchen.

‘Fuchsia has a rare ability to convey an encyclopaedic knowledge of Chinese cuisine in a compelling and totally delicious way.’ Heston Blumenthal

And just in,  “Every Grain of Rice”  was selected this past Tuesday as one of the top cookbooks of 2013 by Canada’s “Globe and Mail”:

Fuchsia Dunlop, a Brit who trained as a chef in Chengdu, China, is the go-to Western authority on regional Chinese cooking. Her latest, loaded with easy, extraordinarily tasty recipes (gingery beef brisket soup with goji berries), is also peppered with easy-to-follow instructions on Chinese cooking basics, from using a wok to proper knife cuts. Indispensable.

Some of the ingredients for  Dan Dan Noodles

Some of the ingredients for Dan Dan Noodles

One of the benefits of attending any of these courses is Michael’s encyclopedic knowledge of food and his interesting stories of cooking personalities he has met during his culinary travels around the globe.  He  actually  had spent time in China with Fuchsia during a chef/cooking tour  for the Culinary Institute of America.  He put together a menu from her cookbook which not only fed us in style and in quantity, but allowed him to demonstrate the different techniques for preparing all the courses.  (It is primarily a demonstration class but you are encouraged to take part as much as you would like.)

He also generously  divulges his best culinary sources here in San Miguel, makes suggestions for  substitutions and when necessary, adapts the recipes for our altitude and availability of ingredients.

As always, the  class was entertaining, educational, full of practical advice & tips, and of course,  the meal was superb! Here is what he prepared for us:

 “A Taste of China” @ Casa de Cocinas

Smacked Cucumbers with Garlicky Sauce

Classic Dan Dan Noodles (Plus a variation)

Twice Cooked Pork

Pomegranate Ice Cream (his own creation)

Classic Dan Dan Noodles

Classic Dan Dan Noodles

Stir Frying the Twice Cooked Pork

Stir Frying the Twice Cooked Pork

Twice Cooked Pork being Served

Twice Cooked Pork being Served

Twice Cooked Pork & Jasmine Rice

Twice Cooked Pork & Jasmine Rice

It has been a long time since I have tasted authentic Chinese food from the Sichuan and Hunan regions in the south of the country:  savoury, pungent, spicy and of course it had that unique numbing flavour that you get only from Sichuan peppercorns.  The consensus of the class was that the Classic Dan Dan Noodle was the favourite, but really, for me,  it was hard to pick just one dish.

The food was as wonderful and remarkable as I remember enjoying in  those Sichuan restaurants in Beijing seven years ago,  and I cannot wait to bring my wok (and a supply of those special peppercorns)  to San Miguel and get started!

If you would like to attend one of Michael and Valarie’s special cooking classes, you can email them at insideroute@aol.com and they will put you on the mailing list for their schedule of classes, culinary trips, tastings  and more.  If you would like to try the Dan Dan Noodles, Michael’s adaption of her classic recipe is here.  (more…)

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