Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chinese cooking class! with Hutong Cuisine

Yesterday we had an absolutely amazing day! We took a cooking class with Chef Zhou Chunyi of Hutong Cuisine. Originally born in Canton, Chef Zhou followed her passion for cooking and ultimately ended up in Beijing, where she opened Hutong Cuisine. Learning to cook traditional, authentic Chinese food from a great chef was a wonderful experience.

We started by meeting Chef Zhou at the local market. She led us around and explained how they pick the right meat, what different spices do, and pointed out all kinds of vegetables I've only seen here in China. In China, chicken breasts are much cheaper than chicken thighs, wings or other parts of the chicken (they also eat chicken head and chicken feet, of which I will spare you the pictures). Chicken breasts are seldom used in Chinese cooking due to lack of flavor and a drier texture than other parts of the chicken - lucky for us Americans, its very cheap to buy chicken breasts here in Beijing.

The spice aisle

Meat! Here, everything is much less "behind the scenes" than it is in the U.S. (unless you were to go to a Butcher or something in the U.S.)

Be careful not to break your eggs! The greenish tinged eggs and the brown ones closest to us in the pic are duck eggs.

Tons of fresh veggies.

We saw several other things at this market that you typically wouldn't see in the U.S., including locals loading up their carts for delivery around town.

The aquarium at the market, where you can pick your own fish.... what? It doesn't look like your local grocery store? lol.

Chef Zhou's class is held in her own home, in one of Beijing's oldest hutongs in the Dongcheng district of the city. These traditional courtyard homes have true Chinese flair and as soon as you step foot in one, you are instantly given a picture of how Chinese lived hundreds of years ago when hutong living was the way almost everybody lived. Much like any other big city, Beijing is loud, and I am pleasantly surprised at how peaceful, quiet and tranquil it is in the hutong.

Gorgeous inside the hutong.

Chef Zhou teaching us about the different types and grades of soy sauce, vinegar, and rice wine.

The hubby and I after chopping up chives, cilantro (also known as coriander according to our British cookmates, as well as Chinese parsley).

The hubby stuffing the dumplings. We made dumplings with pork, beef, and one with egg. Some were mixed with chives, some with spring onions, some with cilantro, and some with cabbage - all had ginger. We handmade the outside "wrapper" as well - surprisingly easy, its made with just flour and water! Same goes for the noodles (which are first boiled for 3 minutes, then stir fried).

MMMM tons of various sorts of dumplings, absolutely delicious! Chef Zhou taught us how to pinch them the correct way. We either stir fried them, boiled them, or steamed them.

A delicious Sichuan style cold dish... cucumber, cilantro, vinegar, soy sauce, chili pepper... so delicious!

This is a type of raddish... I forget exactly what is in it but the flavor is amazing.

My bowl! I can honestly say this is my favorite, most delicious meal in China so far. I love that its homemade, all fresh, no MSG!

Me and the hubby sitting in Chunyi's tiny courtyard, enjoying our meal and drinking tea.

The class was amazing and I will definitely be taking it again to learn how to make more authentic Chinese food! Not only was the food delicious, but the company was great. We have met such cool people in our time so far here in Beijing. Another couple who took the class with us were other Americans from Colorado - they are both twice over Ironman triathletes! They were beginning their 1 year of traveling around the world, and their first stop was here in Beijing. Something about the type of people who come to a place like this are so interesting, and it seems like Beijing draws all kinds of people, from all over the world with all sorts of backgrounds.

If you make it to Beijing or China in general, I highly recommend taking a Chinese cooking class - the food is a huge part of their culture and I think this class would be a highlight of your trip!

Thanks for reading!



  1. Looks really fun, Steph!:D Making me hungry too!:D

    ...and everything girly under the sun!

  2. I shared this post with my husband and we are both so jealous!! It looks so fresh and delicious, YUM! My husband is a much better cook than me, so he would especially love this class! :) I would guess that it would be difficult to make this in the States because of the lack of fresh ingredients. (and I'm sure the lack of specific Chinese spices, etc.) Thanks so much for sharing this, so fun!


  3. The dumplings look so good. The cold dish
    has really yummy ingredients. I am glad
    you enjoyed it.

    I would feel the same way, about the food
    handling. yuck

    Great post. I am looking forward to your
    future posts.

  4. In Atlanta at the Farmers Market, they have that fish section, with the fish swimming around. It grosses me out. Plus there are sometimes dead fish in there. Ewww.

    Also, if this is after you got your hair done, I think it looks good!

  5. Andi, it is! LOL. Thanks!

    Rachel -it can be done! I'll try to post some sort of recipe if I can. It won't be exactly the same but we did make a version of this when I was in CA, with my Chinese teachers there.

    Andrea - they really were so good, I wish I had this food right now!

  6. Hmm I don't really like the markets - as you said, lack of hygiene and just too much on display... I remember seeing live animals in cages, waiting to be cooked, and that was horrible.
    I've tasted but don't like to eat chicken feet (just because - not a good reason, huh)... I suppose the positive thing about the Chinese is that they don't waste anything, if they eat ALL parts of the animal...
    Cooking in that traditional house looks like fun, though!

  7. chinese cooking class!! that would be something for my husband!!
    looks like fun!

  8. Cafe - they definitely don't waste anything! That is good. At least everything gets used and its not for vain you know?!

  9. that's awesome about the chicken breasts being cheaper than everything else, lol!

  10. What an awesome post! I just started cooking a lot since I live alone. I love the way freshly cooked food tastes :) And now I actually have the time to learn.

    I know what you mean about the market and the cleanliness standards...YIKES! How do you get the fish, just grab a net? Haha. Take it home for a pet or sushi!

  11. This is great! Looks like you had a wonderful experience :)

  12. Woah, so proud of you Steph! Jumping in to different things there is awesome!!!

  13. I agree with the Chinese. The leg is the yummiest bit of the chicken! :)

    Kate x

  14. Looks like a great time! Love that you did the cooking class together. I've always wanted to know how to make those delicious dumplings!

  15. Aww this cooking class sounds amazing ! Looks like you guys are having a great time :)

  16. I love Chinese food so much - I bet this was a fun class!

    And before I read your commentary on the hygiene, just the photos made me question the standards. I'm not sure I could get over that.

    p.s. Enter to win a Wendy Mink Jewelry necklace (retail value: $175)!

  17. What an amazing experience!!! How fun!

  18. Their grocery store's are a lot different. I'm surprised, especially since most here are your typical supermarket.

    That class sounds and looks amazing. I bet that was a great experience!

  19. Kimberlee, China is an entirely different animal! hahah. I don't mean that in a bad way either. :)

  20. The cooking class looks so fun. I have been wanting to try cooking classes in various countries on our one-year RTW trip. At this point, we are planning on coming to China, so I bookmarked the link for future use. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  21. I can see how the grocery store would make you cringe - it's tough to deal with everything being out there when you've got a "do not use if seal is broken" mentality.

    Your cooking class sounds really cool, and the dumplings look delicious! Now can start cooking at home!

    Chic on the Cheap

  22. Amy - so cool! lucky girl! That RTW trip is going to be amazing. I've met people who have said this cooking class was the highlight of their trip! so definitely check it out, remember, Hutong Cuisine.

    Lyddie- exaCTLY! I just bought a carton of orange juice but apparently they don't have one of those things inside that you pull out. To me its crazy, anyone could add something in! Needless to say I am not drinking it. LOL! I've always been this way, so I am especially like this in China:)

  23. You two are so cute in your aprons! I'm glad you had fun at the cooking class, and make some delish food in the process! I know what you mean about the hygiene. In Cambodia it's the exact same and I thought for sure I was going to get sick! Thankfully I didn't but the very 'open' market is a different concept!

  24. wowowWOW, could you send some my way please? what you made looks totally picture perfect!
    funny fact, here in Austria/Germany we also call cilantro coreander ... but its almost impossible to get so it makes it super hard to make some really good salsa! My mom and I always get frustrated! :)

    xox Vicky
    Bikinis & Passports

  25. how fun is that!? That food looks awesome too!

  26. that food looks so good! what a great idea to take a cooking class!

  27. the cold dish and dumplings made me hungry!! that's so awesome you and your husband took a cooking class - chinese food is such a big part of the culture.

  28. WOW! What an experience! The food looks amazing and I would so love to go to the market :)

  29. Have you tried dumplings and roast ducks? They are the famous and traditional Beijing dieshes. And also bird's nest soup? Its a delicacy in China.

    Enjoy your days~~~