Forget everything your parents taught you and learn how to play with your food. Why? To break out from a culinary rut (“Pasta again?!”), to get the hang of substituting ingredients or cooking techniques to fit your lifestyle, and – let’s face it – because not all of us are Martha Stewart (who, by the way, has an entire production crew to clean up used pots and bowls).
Enter Stacey and Sara, two friends who met many years ago in the US and whose paths crossed again in Beijing. They share a passion for food borne from a history of growing up in the kitchen. Now, they are sharing their knowledge with residents of Shunyi.
STARAfood started out in late 2013 as a blog (VPN required) dedicated to the duo’s dining adventures. Their quest for good food has taken them throughout Shunyi and downtown Beijing. They tried everything from high-end restaurants to local holes-in-the-wall. In the process, they’ve picked up cultural lessons and surprised servers with the fact that two tall Caucasian ladies could hold their own in Chinese.
Stacey recounts the initial stares and nervous smiles they got when entering local restaurants, only to quickly be replaced by sighs of relief once the staff realized the women knew exactly what they wanted. “Language is so overrated,” Stacey says. “When there is something to say, we will find a way.” And these two ladies always have something to say.
Soon, they tried to replicate some of the dishes they encountered in their explorations, tweaking, sampling, and yes, playing with their food. They hosted dinner parties, after which friends would ask why they didn’t offer cooking classes. They jumped on the idea and STARAcooking was born
After a trial run of eight classes in late 2013, Stacey and Sara are ready for the new year. The blog lists playfully-named topics like Broke Brunch, Ladies Who Lunch, and All Chickened Out.
Stacey (an American) and Sara (a Swede) aim to keep the classes light and fun. They are suitable for cooks of all experience levels. Having been expats for the last decade, they understand what it’s like for novice cooks who have to adjust recipes based on locally-available ingredients. Based on student feedback, a market tour is also in the works.
Hosting the lessons in a kitchen (as opposed to a cooking school) keeps the atmosphere homey. Questions fly back and forth as the students busy themselves with their work. The class is an opportunity to see how you can improvise with recipes.
Ultimately, Stacey and Sara’s goal is to impart their love of food with students. Class sizes are limited to six people, and all classes end with the sharing of a meal. From beginning to end, Stacey and Sara show you how that it’s not always a bad thing to play your food.
We’d like to hear from you! What are your Shunyi favorites? Any recommendations or bits of news you’d like to see here on Shunyi Happenings, please feel free to send it on to us via email to: email@example.com.
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.
Photos by Dana Cosio-Mercado