I was lucky enough back in May to receive some Birthday vouchers for The Hutong Cooking School. When I first arrived in Beijing, I did a couple of their classes, plus one of the tea tours. That was many years back, when the number of cooking classes available was much smaller. Today, they offer a wide range of culinary programs, with a schedule of over 20 different kinds of classes all run from their fully equipped teaching kitchen. Covering different regional and global cuisines, in the Yunnan class students learn to cook delicious mushroom dishes, exotic rice dishes, dried chili stir-fries, and foods steamed in lotus leaves. Tastes of China, teaches classic Chinese kitchen techniques, such as stir frying, braising, deep frying, and Chinese cleaver knife skills. You can also learn the art of making noodles, dumplings, and xialongbao.
I decided to try the Thai cooking class, as it’s one of my favorite cuisines. We would be cooking three dishes – green curry chicken, Thai pineapple rice, and Thai beef salad. The class was small and our teacher Sophia was both enthusiastic and informative, taking us on a culinary tour of Thai tastes, techniques, and ingredients. She offered practical tips on where to source ingredients, and suggested substitutes if you can’t find the real deal. The first part of the class involved a lot of chopping, slicing, and dicing, to prepare all of the ingredients for the green curry paste, and for the rest of the dishes. It is harder than it looks to get your shallots so finely chopped and your carrots looking uniform. Once everything was prepared, we moved on to the cooking part, where we all had the opportunity to get involved with some hands on cooking.
All classes are 2 ½ hours, and at the end you get to enjoy the dishes you’ve cooked, with enough for a doggy bag too. The Hutong kitchen is clean and well-organized, with a viewing mirror so you can see what’s cooking. All of the ingredients used are fresh and of very good quality. Sophia suggested we try the recipes at home within a week of taking the class, when everything was still fresh in our minds. So the following weekend I ordered a couple of deboned chickens, and headed off to Sanyuanli to get everything from lemongrass to sweet basil, pineapple to round eggplant. The recommended palm sugar proved elusive, so I substituted with something my Ayi said would be fine.
I will be honest and say I exceeded my own expectations. The chicken was beautifully tender, the eggplant cooked perfectly, and the sauce was thick, creamy, and coated everything beautifully. My other half felt it could be spicier, and I had to agree, although it was spicier than the version we produced at The Hutong. Next time I will add more green chilies to the paste. The pineapple rice was soft sweet, the pineapple contrasting perfectly with the crunch of the carrots and cashew nuts. My shrimps were cooked well, but they weren’t as strong in flavor as those at The Hutong. I’ll spend a little more money on that element of the ingredient list next time.
I now feel confident in making a good green curry chicken with Thai pineapple rice, and next weekend I’ll do the Thai beef salad. I still have more Hutong vouchers to use, so after the summer break I’m booking myself on to the Indian cooking class, to learn how to griddle breads and make a proper masala.
The Hutong Kitchen
Classes RMB 300 (RMB 260 Members)
1 Jiudaowan Zhongxiang, Beixinqiao, Dongcheng District (159 0104 6127, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.thehutong.com Chinese 中国北京东城区北新桥九道湾中巷1号
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.
Photos: Sally Wilson