Back to the School of Wok! I love it. I've learned such a lot there, from Jeremy et al., and Chinese food has been revolutionised for me. Who knew it would be just a few core techniques, key ingredients and lots and lots of chopping...?
Head Chef Jeremy Pang is an up-and-coming TV chef, running an award winning Oriental Cookery School, and now, author of Chinese Unchopped, authentic Chinese recipes, broken down into simple techniques.
To go with the new book (which Jez has signed for me!) the School are putting on classes with Jeremy where he takes us through the crab claw (keeping your fingers out of harm's way whilst chopping and slicing), the Wok Clock (placing all your ingredients in clockwise order in preparation for the stir fry part), and wok tossing (cooking the fresh ingredients in lightning quick time).
Essentially, Chinese cooking is 90% prep, 10 % cooking. With ingredients like soy sauce (light and dark), sesame oil, spring onions and the infamous Chinese Five Spice (that's star anise, cinnamon, clove, fennel seeds, and one other spice (or five), which could be anything from chilli, garlic, ginger to Sichuan pepper, or all of them!), authentic dishes can be cooked up with all the essentials, the cleaver, the wok, the slicing and dicing. Then the braising, the stir-frying, deep-frying and the roasting. Oh yes, those Peking ducks you see hanging in the window of Chinatown, double cooked - fried and roasted.
|Chinese Unchopped: The Wok Clock|
On the menu in this class are shiitake and Chinese chive dumplings, Sichuan braised aubergine, and black bean beef in beer. We begin by learning the secret of holding and handling a cleaver. Yes, a big choppy chopper Chinese cleaver you see in all the movies. I handled one of those. They are amazing. Sooooo sharp... Jez taught us how to hold the cleaver - relax those shoulders - and with the other hand, the crab claw, where the knuckles rest against the cleaver in such a way that you can never, ever, chop anything other than the ingredients!
Dumplings. An enigma? Now, with Jeremy's guidance, some dexterity and a really flavourful filling, deep fried gyozas are handmade. Some of the class showed more skill than others when it came to folding, but once cooked, those dumplings were delicious.
Cooking with the wok, we learned that the oil must be smoking hot, and to manoeuvre your ingredients so that you control the temperature. And you need to be quick. After all that prep, this is the crucial part.
|Shiitake Dumplings, Jeremy in action rolling dumpling pastry, using the Wok Clock, and Black Bean Beef with Beer.|
Jez is an excellent teacher. He talks like he writes. He writes like he talks, From chatting to him and then following his guidance in the class, taking the Chinese Unchopped cookbook home, it feels as though you have his handwritten instructions with which to make all your favourite Chinese dishes. And I can't wait to get stuck in.
All recipes are in the book Chinese Unchopped, and classes can be booked online at The School of Wok. Big thanks to the team at the School.