8 things I learnt about authentic Chinese cooking from School of Wok
Tonight, I was kindly invited by School of Wok (what a great name!) to partake in their Authentic Chinese Cuisine cooking class, and I had the time of my life. Jeremy was an absolutely fantastic instructor (my favourite quote was ‘Chinese people use EVERY part of EVERYTHING!’), I fell in love with a knife and I ate probably the best Chinese meal I’ve ever had in my life. The IKEA effect is a real thing – the fact that I had actually made it myself definitely made me enjoy the food even more. And all the other participants were very friendly, which made the whole evening a very rewarding, fun experience!
I thought the best way of writing a review of the class without overwhelming you with details would be to describe the 8 key things I know now that I did not know before School of Wok opened my eyes. Of course, there were far more than 8 things, but these were the most important. If you want to know more, then I strongly encourage you to attend a class yourself!
1. I must own a cleaver.
It is the only utensil we used to make the entire dinner. It is capable of chopping everything under the sun and it is also really fun to use. And once you get over how incredibly large it is, you get into a rhythm and feel oddly calm whilst wielding a knife that could chop anything from a clove of garlic to a small animal!
2. Chinese cooking is 80-90% preparation
We only spent about 20 minutes in the kitchen and the entire rest of the time preparing all the ingredients. Remarkable, impressive, and completely worth it!
3. Heat is key
We were given exactly 7 minutes to make our fried rice once we were at our cooking stations, and it was more than enough. Jeremy showed us how we need to make sure the oil is smoking before we add the ingredients, and that if we made sure to fold everything in properly on a very high heat, everything will come out perfectly cooked. Of course, the fact that everything was chopped to perfection didn’t hurt either!
4. Cleaning a squid isn’t as scary as it seems
We used our hands to pull out the skeleton and detach the head and then brought back the cleaver to separate the legs, scrape off the membrane and make the criss cross pattern. It only took a few minutes and it means I am now no longer afraid to buy fresh squid!
5. Pork belly is beautiful
6. Takeaway sucks
Why, why, WHY did I ever order Chinese takeaway?? In future, if the thought of doing it ever crosses my mind again, I shall be sure to banish it by smashing some garlic cloves with my newly acquired cleaver and then making the Sichuan aubergine from today.
7. Be sure to balance flavour, colour and texture
This, Jeremy told us, is the key to real Chinese cooking. This meal exemplified it perfectly – we had a brothy Fujian fried rice with shades of green, red and orange, a gloriously crispy serving of pork belly and a melt-in-the-mouth spicy Sichuan style aubergine.
8. I must own a cleaver.
Because finely chopped vegetables are my favourite thing ever and I need more of them in my life. Also, you can use it to bash things.
If you are looking for a fun, educational and delicious way to spend an evening, look no further than School of Wok. They have a huge array of classes, and if any of the others are even half as good as this one, I cannot recommend them enough. Stay tuned – I am going to try and recreate these recipes at home and when I do, I will be sure to tell you all about it!