- Did you know that there are 8 official regional cuisines of China?
- How does Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) work in Beijing?
- What does “Slow Food” mean?
- Have you ever tried carving a butterfly out of a carrot?
- If you had only a RMB 50 budget and 2 hours to create your perfect dish, what would you make?
The Hutong recently hosted two back-to-back “Fun with Food” Culinary Experience Programs for groups of ~20 foodies each. Whether these eager participants were already experimental cooks in their own home kitchen or just big fans of good food, The Hutong turned these foodies into experienced, capable and knowledgable chefs in just 4 days time (that’s right, you heard me correct the first time – just FOUR DAYS)!
Making the most of the limited time we had, we walked students step-by-step, day-by-day through the intricate process of food preparation from planting the seeds on the farm to the minute the dish has been served hot to your table.
Food isn’t grown in grocery stores and it’s important to understand food production in this modern day and age – to learn how most of our food is processed and also the importance of sustainable farming practices to minimize the harsh environmental impact of widespread farming.
Starting on Day 1 with a visit to Shared Harvest organic farm, students were put to work and had the chance to see first-hand how food is grown and the value of being ecologically sustainable. Reconnecting with the soil is one of the most basic ways we can support our bodies to heal and stay healthy. With just a little bit of hard work through manual labor, students learned the full cycle of the organic farm from planting seeds to exploring a vegetable garden in full bloom. After building their own mini flower and vegetable gardens, students were treated to a tasty, home-cooked lunch using fresh vegetables and ingredients taken straight off the farm.
Snapshots from Fun with Food Farm Day:
Learning step-by-step how to pickle vegetables
Taking their own pickle jars home!
Our day on the farm emphasized the value of preservation (students tried their hand at making their own jars of pickled vegetables!) and the importance of educating the public on staying mindful of waste. One of the many attractive qualities of Shared Harvest is that they’ve adopted a Community-Supported-
The following day, students were then taken a local Chinese market to meet with vendors, explore the various stalls and learn about all the seasonal vegetables and fruit while also braving the butchery and seafood aisles. That afternoon, they began learning the basics in the kitchen while also being introduced to China’s diverse range of regional cuisines.
Coached by Chef Sue, Executive Chef of The Hutong and expert caterer for food-related events, students were encouraged to explore their culinary skills, including menu creation, catering organization, nutrition, sanitation standards, and dish presentation.
Starting with the basics of learning how to safely and efficiently handle a Chinese cleaver and wok, students also learned how to make their own chili oil to cleaning, prepping and stir-frying basic Chinese dishes. By the fourth day of the program, students were well on their way to mastering the art of plating and how to carve vegetables into flowers and butterflies, the importance of layering and balancing tastes within dishes and how to inspire crafty creativity in the kitchen.
To supplement the cooking classes each day of the program, we also engaged students’ curiosity and interest with sensory workshops (organized by Slow Food Beijing), an off-site visit with a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour of SWITCH!/Culinary Capers, one of Beijing’s biggest and most multi-functional catering kitchens and also a panel discussion lead by 3 F&B industry experts – Chef Kin Hong of The Taco Bar and food consultant of Great Leap Brewing, successful restauranteur Alan Wong of the Hatsune Restaurant Group, and hotelier Emile Otte of The Hilton Beijing Hotel.
In addition to learning about the value and importance of good food, students also have the opportunity to understand the reality and how they can potentially realize their passions into a career in the Food and Beverage industry. Healthy living and fine dining are inseparable and the freshest ingredients always make the best dishes.
The final day’s Master Chef Cook-Off set students on a mission to create their own perfect dish by writing their own recipe, purchasing their own ingredients from a local market and putting their newly-acquired knowledge and cooking skills into practice. By scrolling through the following dishes, you can imagine just how impressed we all were!
M & D’s Beef
The Couple and The Puppy Called Floppy
Beef Wrapped Vegetables and Vegetable Wrapped Beef
Beef Bites by M & D
Baked and Sauced Lemon Fish
Cow Hidden in the Forest
Silver Pear Syrup
Thank you to the lovely three celebrity guest judges (Justin, Karen and Chunman Gissing) who came to the Master Chef Cook-Off Competition
Chinese Turnip Experience
Meatball Heavenly Surprise
Final Master Chef-Off Dish Presentations for Judges, Parents, Teachers and Peers
After giving students the know-how to create health conscious menus and cooking skills to inspire creativity, we hope that they continue to build on their passion for food into their habits at home.
We hope all of our participants continue to use the resources shown to them on the trip and remember their introductions into the culinary community of Beijing to support their new “foodie” lifestyle and continue to be aware of their culinary environment no matter which country they are in and learn how to use a location’s advantages to create fun and amazingly tasty dishes.
Sign Up for The Hutong’s Summer Cooking Camp for Teens
Delighted by how creative and engaging these two groups of foodie students were, The Hutong has been inspired to continue to spread the “foodie bug” to enthusiastic young chefs-to-be by launching its first ever Cooking Camp for Teens starting this summer (July 2013) on Wednesdays’ late mornings.
This 6-week course is led by Hutong Chef Ali and will focus on preparing delicious foods and will emphasize tasty, healthy and nutritional choices, as well as cover kitchen safety tips such as cutting and chopping techniques. Even if you can’t boil water, Ali will have you making your own bread from scratch by week 3 (yes, you are really going to make your own bread!). Not only will you gain confidence and independence in the kitchen, but our teen cooking camp will be an occasion to enjoy culinary times in our cozy Hutong Kitchen with your old and newfound friends.
Cooking Camp Dates: Every Wednesday in July (3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st) and August 7th, 11:30-14:00
Week 1: Kitchen Orientation
Introduction to kitchen equipment, cutting techniques & basic ingredients; balancing flavors & tastes, plus some nutrition basics. You’ll jump-start your cooking with three simple dishes.
Dishes Taught- Green Salad with Homemade Dressing, Potato Rosti, Simple Omelette, and Homemade Lemonade
Week 2: Complete Meals
Now that you’ve mastered the basics, we’ll learn how to put together a complete meal with a protein, starch & vegetable dish. We’ll also learn how to make simple sauce and use herbs for flavor.
Dishes Taught- Chicken in Vinegar Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Greens, and Glazed Carrots
Week 3: Bread!
Yes, Bread! This week you’ll learn all about flour, including how to make your own yeast bread from scratch plus three simpler recipes.
Dishes Taught- Homemade Bread, Soda Bread, Pancakes, and Banana Bread
Week 4: Comfort Foods
Missing your favorites? Getting a little sick of Annie’s and Kraft box meals? Week 4 will have you making your favorite dishes completely on your own, along with some tips to make them just a little healthier.
Dishes Taught- Macaroni & Cheese, Spaghetti w/ Homemade Meatballs & Tomato Sauce, and Pierogi
Week 5: Desserts & Baking
Of course no meal is complete without dessert! We’ll learn the basics of baking, the importance of measuring, and how to read a recipe. You’ll also make some treats to take home and share (or not).
Dishes Taught- Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vanilla Cupcakes, Icebox Pie, and Yogurt Parfaits
Week 6: The Great Cook-Off
Now that you’ve mastered the kitchen, it’s time to show what you learned! We’ll set you up with a variety of ingredients and give you 90 minutes to make a meal on your own.