Cooking Lessons at the Linden Centre

On the second day of our stay at the Linden Centre, we were given the opportunity to have a cooking class with Michael, one of the Linden Centre’s chefs. Our group of 15 was broken into two groups. Group One would take a tour of the markets in Xizhou and purchase their own ingredients to be used later that afternoon in the cooking class. Group Two, my group, was chosen for the morning class where all of the ingredients were already purchased. The recipes my group and I would be cooking consisted of two traditional Bai dishes, the Bai people being the predominant ethnic group in Xizhou.

The first dish we prepared was a type of mashed potatoes with leek and green onions cooked in dark soy sauce. The potatoes were already boiled in water and we proceeded to peel and mash them by hand. One of the immediate differences between my experience with western cooking and eastern cooking was how o ften the hands were used to help cut and mash the various ingredients. After the potatoes and related ingredients were prepared, we proceeded to combine them into a stir fried mash potato delicacy.

The second dish was along the lines of a more traditional plate of chicken stir fry. Some of the unique ingredients used were sichuan peppers, cinnamon bark, potato starch, light and dark soy sauce, and Chinese peach flower wine. The peach flower wine used in this dish was the same kind that could be bought at most wine selling stores in the Yunnan province. It is a common drinking wine with a taste similar to rose tea or rose wine which also doubles as a perfect cooking wine. As we started to combine all of our ingredients into the wok, we had the liberty of choosing how much spice to use. Those of us who prefered our food to be spicy used more sichuan pepper than those who liked to maintain the sweeter flavor of the peach flower wine. Even those who enjoy spicy food need to be aware of the dangers possessed by sichuan pepper. Too much sichuan pepper can lead to a numbing sensation in the mouth which is only worsened by drinking water.

Both groups concluded the cooking classes with a late afternoon feast for lunch. While group two made mashed potatoes and chicken stir fry, group two used the ingredients they bought to make a pork stir fry and a spicy rice cake dish. Chef Michael had one last surprise for our lunchtime feast. Michael prepared a soup of his own recipe which consisted of rice wine, sugar, gogi berries, and cheese. The final product was a sweet, yet savory soup which was very filling.

The feast was a satisfying conclusion for a group of tired, amateur chefs.