Yangshuo in China on the magical Li River is most famous for mountain crags, cycling and walking trails and brilliant night light shows. Something also not to be missed in this beautiful country retreat is the Yangshuo Cooking School.
We were first met at the Yangshuo vegetable market by our guide and young chef Amy. Amy is a local woman born in Yangshuo and has witnessed the mammoth changes and growth in the town over the last 15 years, from a few small cafes to now over 700 restaurants.
We walked to the huge market filled with hundreds of small stalls laden with super fresh local vegetables. Some of the more interesting ones we saw were young bamboo shoots, large thick asparagus, taro, green garlic tops, Chinese red dates, wolfberries, pumpkin flowers and of course the typical Asian red chillies, ginger, garlic, eggplant and peppers, along with fragrant herbs like mint and chives.
Women were cutting large slabs of freshly made tofu and selling spices from large hessian bags. At the entrance to the vegetable market there was an array of shallow plastic dishes filled with live wrigglers from the local Li river. These fish, baby eels, muddy looking dark brown prawns and slithery water snakes might look good to some but can be quite challenging for westerners.
Leaving the market we were driven to a traditional Chinese farmhouse cooking school 10 minutes out of Yangshuo. Set in tranquil countryside with mountain peaks keeping a watchful eye on the new eight budding chefs from all parts of the world.
As it was Thursday we were about to cook course 2 menu. This consisted of five dishes including egg wrapped dumplings, steam chicken and mushroom, stir fried pork with vegetables and oyster sauce, eggplant Yangshuo style and green vegetables with garlic. There is another course 1, also with five dishes including the Yangshuo beer fish which is a speciality of the area.
Amy our chef, in almost perfect English, showed us how to grasp the Chinese cleaver and to cut and dice our vegetables in the traditional Chinese way.
She demonstrated the cooking of each dish before letting us free with our huge Chinese black woks and gas burners to cook each dish under the careful supervision of her and her assistant. Our favourite dish was the egg wrapped dumplings. To cook this popular children’s snack we mixed some mince pork, a pinch of salt, a sprig of finely chop mint and one chopped pickled chilli. We then heated our wok on the fiery gas burner until it started to smoke. AfTer adding some oil we spooned out a good dollop of beaten duck egg into the wok. Added some of the minced pork then folded over the egg omelet to make a crepe shape. After making four more crepes we used our large long handled silver spatula to toss and turn our new creations for 30 seconds until golden brown. To our surprise Amy told us to add some water to the wok and cover with a lid and cook for a couple of minutes. This she said was to make sure the pork was well steamed. When the water evaporated it was time to take from the heat and we ran to the table to taste our mouth watering treats.
After this first course we cooked the other four dishes and the egg plant Yangshuo style was a crowd favourite. All the time we were busily cooking we chatted and exchanged cooking and travel tip with our new found friends.
We ended this engaging experience with the group sitting down together to what we all agreed was some of the best Chinese food we had ever eaten, but we might have been a little biased. If it is food you like or a chance to meet other interesting travellers in a beautiful countryside setting, then Yangshuo cooking school is a must do in China. (Check out the YouTube clip about the cooking school to find out more)
Yangshuo Village In
No. 26 Moon Hill Village, Gaotian Town
Yangshuo, Guangxi, 541907, China