Taking a cooking class is a great way to enhance your short holiday or long-term travels. Almost every place that I travel to, I see cooking classes available—be it in Thailand or Italy, Argentina or Vietnam, Mexico or Morocco. I had been lingering in the laid back town of Dali in China’s Yunnan Province for nearly 10 days when I decided to take a cooking class.
Rice & Friends Cooking School
Rice and friends conducts lessons on a daily basis from 10am to 3pm in small group classes of less than 5 students. It has a near perfect rating on Trip Advisor and is the #3 attraction in Dali. The owner and teacher, Luxi, recently moved the school to a cozy location atop a small rooftop veranda—where you learn the basics of Chinese cooking while gazing out to the dramatic Cangshan range.
Buying the Ingredients
The first thing you’ll do is set out to the Dali market. Luxi will help sort you through all the familiar, as well as unfamiliar, produce—and there will be some things you don’t recognize. Try not to miss all the different varieties of tofu as well as the local vegetables, sprouts, numerous mushrooms, and sea veg, an indigenous plant which grows in the nearby Erhai Lake.
We learned three dishes during the afternoon course: dried tofu salad, fish-flavored eggplant, and Kung Pao chicken. Luxi planned this menu of three classic Chinese dishes so that her students could prepare them when they returned home.
We started with the salad and ate it up as soon as we finished. We followed that up with the eggplant and chicken dishes, which were fantastic. As we ate, Luxi talked about the history of the dishes and about many of the day’s ingredients.
The Kung Pao Chicken originates from the Sichuan Cooking School of China. Interestingly enough, the fish-flavored eggplant contains no fish—it was named so because it used to contain fish but someone made it one time without the fish and they liked it just as much.
Reproducing the menu at home
Even though it sounds obvious, one of the goals at Rice & Friends is to actually teach you how to prepare these dishes so you can recreate them at home. I’ve heard criticisms of other cooking schools which prepare the complex sauces beforehand, failing to teach students this important step. At Rice and Friends it’s not like this.
Luxi and her assistant had prepared some of the ingredients as well as slicing the chicken to be used, but did nothing that couldn’t be easily replicated by you at home. Luxi also had the foresight to select dishes that had ingredients which could be found abroad.
Touring Europe the previous year, she scoured Asian supermarkets to find which ingredients were available. She wanted those who finished her course to be able to impress friends and family at home with their newly acquired Chinese cooking skills.
Watch the Video
Here’s the video we produced the day of our course:
Contact Rice & Friends Cooking School
Lessons at Rice and Friends Cooking School are conducted daily from 10am-3pm. Their studio is located at 1 Hong Long Jing in Old Town Dali. Visit their website at: http://www.riceandfriends.com for more information.
Disclosure: I received a cooking class in exchange for this review. The words and opinions expressed, however, are entirely my own.