Today was our final day of classes, so most of us were taking our final exams this morning. For a good chunk of us in classes with non-Northeastern students, this meant skipping our morning class to take our exams in Dong Laoshi’s office. It was a relief to finally get all of the classwork out of the way!
By noon, everybody was done with classes and headed off to prepare for our cooking class this afternoon. We were all told to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes, since unlike last time when we went to the cooking school we would be working with woks today! After an uneventful (by Chinese standards) half-hour bus ride to the school, we were ready to start.
Before we could get into the school, we saw the school children doing their morning exercise, or 早操. Some of the members of our group got excited and decided to join in!
After that was finished, we went into the school’s practice kitchens where we learned the different types of stirring and mixing that are used when cooking with a wok. They gave us woks filled with sand to practice with, which struck many people in the group as a little odd, but they explained that it was a reusable practice material that can have water added to it like food. This is useful especially because as a student at this school you need to spend six months just practicing how to stir a wok!
After attempting (and failing) to stir a wok like our teachers, we were taken to another practice kitchen, where a student demonstrated to us the knife skills they learn at the school. He cut a radish into the shape of a flower, and carved super-soft tofu as thin as a hair in less than a minute!
We then watched as one of the teachers made 宫保鸡丁, Kung Pao Chicken. It turns out this teacher was once the top student at this school, and won the chance to work at a 7-star hotel in Dubai, and this skill showed as he quickly deboned a chicken thigh and prepared the other ingredients. He then told us how Chinese food is even faster than Western fast food, as he poured oil into a scalding hot wok, tested the heat of the oil with his bare finger, and then threw the various ingredients in, cooking it all in less than a minute!
After this demonstration, they showed us how to make 土豆丝 and 麻婆豆腐, potato slices and Mapo Tofu, two of our favorite dishes! We took about three times as long to slice the potatoes, and our cuts were much less even that the teachers, but the end result was still just as delicious, especially since we had students from the school on hand to help us and make sure we didn’t light ourselves on fire with the huge flames from the woks.
After about three hours at the school, it was time to say goodbye, and we all headed back to our bus to enjoy our last night in Nanjing before our homestay!
On a personal note, I went to the doctor for a headache today, and the whole doctor’s visit cost 1.80 yuan, plus 20 yuan for some medicine. There was also no wait whatsoever to see a doctor, despite Jenn’s concern that it would take a long time, although it took us about 10 minutes to find the right room as people kept sending us to different places. As expected, Chinese doctors’ handwriting is about as illegible as Western doctors’. Gotta love socialist medicine!