I am determined to learn a few Sichuan dishes while I live in this area. I can now with certainty say that that will be for the immediate future. At any rate, and with some of the stress gone now that the hard part of the visa process is over, I was recently able to dive into this goal head first on a classless Friday. FYI, there is something both exciting and extremely naughty in signing up for a cooking class when the rest of the school is participating in a 2 day sports competition. (Please insert a mischievous grin here)
I signed up for one of three cooking class options based basically on pricing. But I guess the other thing was the website…it sounded more homey and down to earth, so off I went. At one point I started gathering that I might be the only participant in the group and it was only when I was in the market, alone the chef that it dawned on me to think like my dear granny and send my husband the address of the place we’d be cooking.
But that was paranoid Christine thinking. The one that has seen too many episodes of Breaking Bad and Dexter (even if I was thoroughly disgusted with the mediocre ending you guys gave me). Because Chef Chao’s class was absolutely awesome guys!
I got to cook with a guy whose father owns a Dim Sum restaurant, who had taken a class or two at the Sichuan Culinary Institute and had already hosted cooking classes in Beijing with his sister. This guy has been around the culinary block here in China and spoke fairly decent English, which made the experience all the more enriching!
His recipes were spot on. Our three dish lunch had a bit of a sweet and sour, a numbing spicy fried dish, and a neutral, fresh palate cleanser. Of course, the dessert was technically part of lunch, but dessert deserves its own special meal, or a category if you’re a stickler for the food pyramid or anything-and who wouldn’t want candied caramel floss fried bananas?! NOBODY-unless you are trying to lose weight I suppose-but I’m sure even then you could make an exception.
I thought I’d share a recipe with you from Chef Chao’s class. Just one though. I have three more, and hopefully I’ll have another four in the near future. If you want the rest, you’ll just have to visit me here in Chengdu and sign up for his class! I can now promise to make you an authentic Sichuan dinner!
This recipe is Chef Chao’s recipe. Sign up for one of his classes at his website: www.chengducookingclasses.com. If you’ll be in Beijing, you can contact him about taking classes with his sister through the same site.
- 150 grams chicken, cubed (about 1.5 cm each)
- Oil to fry chicken
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- Ginger, roughly the same amount as the garlic, thinly sliced into pieces the size of your thumbnail
- 1 spring onion, just the white stem, sliced 1.5 cm wide
- ¾-1 cup of dried chilies, seeds removed and cut into sections
- 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorn
- 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons chili bean paste
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn starch
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dry white cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- Add the chicken to the marinade and set aside for 15 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
- If there is a lot of juice, you can drain some of the liquid off. Then, sprinkle the meat with corn starch until each piece has a dry coating.
- Heat the wok over high heat, and add the sesame seeds while constantly moving around with a spatula. The sesame seeds should start to pop and bounce around, but pay very close attention. They will also deepen to a golden color and you should take them off the heat before they turn brown. The seeds will continue to roast even after you have poured them into a small bowl. Smell is the best way to know if you’ve accidentally burnt them. Don’t be afraid to toss and start over if need be.
- Add enough oil (with my wok, I needed about 3 cups) to your wok so that the chicken will be completely submerged. Heat the oil until you can dip your chopsticks in the oil and it creates an intense onslaught of frothy bubbles. Deep fry your chicken for three minutes. Take the chicken out and set on a plate lined with paper towel.
- Turn the heat up to high and when the oil smokes slightly, toss the chicken back in and deep fry until the pieces are golden brown. Drain the chicken once more. This time you can empty the oil from the wok.
- Coat the wok in ½ cup oil by swirling it around the edges once the oil is hot. This will prevent sticking. Add the chili bean paste and stir until mixed in with the oil. Then add the Sichuan peppercorns, ginger, garlic, and spring onion. Add the dried chili peppers. Stir fry about 30 seconds. Add the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the sugar and gently fold the ingredients to combine. The chili peppers will slightly change color. Add the sesame seeds, and fold a couple more times.
- Serve on a bed of rice with your favorite Chinese vegetable side dish.
FYI-I made this with pork the day after the class to showcase my new tricks to the hubby and child…it was very well received by both parties. Noah kept asking for more ‘chicken’ and Juan kept saying, “Not bad,” with a playful smile on his lips. I was going to do a really photo shoot, but alas, we gobbled up every last bite.
I think I might also try this with firm tofu, but I think I will marinate it overnight.