If you are looking for a fun way to learn Chinese, That’s Mandarin has, in addition to it’s extensive language learning set-up, cooking classes that can teach you how to make authentic Chinese dishes, in Chinese. The classes are immersive but by no means exclusive, so if you need to hear your ingredients in English, they are happy to oblige. The classes are free to any student of That’s Mandarin and very affordable for anyone else looking to learn how to cook at just 40 RMB, covering food, Chinese instruction and, of course, the free beer. It’s a good idea to drag a few friends along, especially if they can cook better than you.
The concentration for this lesson is China’s famous liangcai, cold dishes that you’ve probably had in a restaurant a dozen time before. They’re simple, easy to make, cheap and generally delicious.
The setting for your foray into this Chinese culinary class is in That’s Mandarin‘s Beijing loft-like mother-ship, filled with modern glass aquarium classrooms. The cooking area is sprawled out on their ground floor, featuring tables and chairs in front of a projector screen for all the vocab, photos and pinyin you need, chaired by an enthusiastic Chinese teacher.
The first dish was the all too familiar dabancai 大拌菜, consisting of two types of lettuce and three types of peppers, or caijiao (彩椒). Then adding in nuts (花生), baby tomatoes (小西红柿), and sesame oil.
The dish seems like just a simple salad, but when comparing the teacher’s dish to our own, it’s pretty clear this easy dish is all in the details. Rather than packing it in a dabao for you to eat later, students get a few minutes to mill about with other patrons and make changes to suit different palates.
With a beer to chase the 大拌菜, it was time for the next dish.
凉拌 土豆 丝 (liangban tudou si) is a cold dish with potato, shredded carrots, and zucchini. The patient host of the evening has ample instructions for the slower cooks or just those who can’t stick with the language lesson.The potatoes and carrots were shredded on a grater and pilled together. Then, they are put into warm water. This is how they get from limp shreds to pliable noodles. From there, the potato and carrots are mixed with shredded cucumber and then salt, sesame oil, and spices of your choice. Though, we were at the anti-spicy table just in case.
This is another simple dish that you can easily cater to your particular palate: authentic, cheap and you can find the ingredients everywhere.
With a healthy amount of sesame oil on everyone’s pants and shirt sleeves (gloves are provided and encouraged) the motley crew of foodies stayed after this particular lesson to eat, drink and make merry over their new dishes.
The event was a great way to practice and learn new Chinese while learning how to make simple Chinese cuisine. Thankfully this is not the only installment of cooking classes by That’s Mandarin; they host regular cooking meets, so check out their website at www.thatsmandarin.com.