Make it. Eat it. Love it.
Picture this; karst limestone peaks towering over the beautiful Li River where bamboo rafts float along. Crystal clear waters of the Yu Long river where children splash and play as people float down the water to the ancient Dragon Bridge. Cobble stone ancient streets of the old city where merchants hock their goods to the touristy passerby. A food market tucked away on a busy main street selling everything from fruits to spices, noodles to meat. Days are spent rock climbing, lazying around the river or mopeding through the beautiful countryside with stops to eat fresh lotus fruit from the lotus farm or chat with locals in one of the many small surrounding villages.This magnificent scene was the backdrop for the cooking class I was lucky enough to be able to take on our stop in beautiful Yangshuo, China.
We met Linda, our cooking instructor outside of the Yangshuo market. What looked to be a small covered market with vendors that spilled onto the street opened up to large space broken into various areas, vegetables, sea food, fuit, spices and noodles, meat and poultry. As we entered the market vendors sitting on the floor with large bins filled with water caught my eye. They were selling the usual fish and shellfish and the more unusual turtles, snakes, eels and frogs. The vegetable and fruit portion of the market boasted a variety of offerings I have yet to find in the states or in Israel; lotus root, bitter melon, bamboo, the most unusual mushrooms, mangosteens, jack fruit and more.
We worked our way through the market as Linda stopped to point out a variety of spices, seaweed, noodles and tofu. Onward to the meat section where slaughtered ducks lay in rows, chickens, still alive in coups were sold to customers, live rabbits waited on tables to be picked up and skinned dogs hung in the corner. The sight made me want to become a vegetarian and the dogs made me turn to my husband almost in tears. We then skipped the walk through the meat market and headed out to the fruit stands to regain some of our appetite for the cooking class we were about to participate in.
We entered a classroom in Cloud 9 restaurant with 2 large rows of woks set over burners, cutting boards, knives and seasonings. We were handed aprons and chef hats and quickly dove into our lesson on knife skills. Linda briefly went over the correct way to hold a knife and how to chop our vegetables properly so we dont chop off a finger. We were given a basket of ingredients for the 3 dishes we were going to learn to prepare; fried green beans with garlic and chilies, sweet and sour pork and Gong Bao chicken. Linda showed us how to properly smash garlic so when you chop it, it will be chopped nice and fine. We learned to the key to frying the green beans so they charred just perfectly and the secret to getting that wonderful orange color of sweet and sour pork. My husband was excited to see his favorite dish Gong Bao Chicken on the menu and for us to learn how to make it just right. After cooking each dish we would enjoy our creations in the dinning room downstairs.
Though the food we learned to make may not have been the authentic chinese food that we found along the way in our travels, and was more of the americanized chinese food, it was all delicious and the experience was just wonderful. If you find yourself in Yangshuo, China stop by the Cloud 9 Restaurant and sign up for a cooking class with Linda!
Gong Bao Chicken
250 grams chicken breast, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon rice wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 egg white
1 red chili pepper, seeds removed and cut into cubes
1 green pepper, seeds removed and cut into cubes
20 grams cucumber, seeds removed and cut into cubes
20 grams carrots, cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small piece ginger, minced
10 pieces dried red chili, cut into 1 inch long small pieces
2 sprigs spring onion, cut into 1 inch long pieces
20 grams deep fried peanuts
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon Sichuan pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Marinade the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon rice wine, 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1 egg white, for about 5 minutes.
Heat wok till smoking and then add 3 tablespoons oil.
Add chicken to wok and cook until about 80% done, keeping oil in wok, remove chicken and set aside.
Stir fry garlic, ginger and dried chilis over low heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the rest of the vegetables except the spring onions and stir fry the vegetables until about half way done.
Add a tablespoon water and cook until water is evaporated.
Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, 1/2 teaspoon salt, chicken bouillon, and sugar.
Return chicken to the wok and season with Sichuan pepper.
Add spring onion and peanuts to the wok and combine.
Add a few drops of sesame oil and white pepper, stir to combine.
Some more photos from Yangshuo