Senior Staff Writer
The Chinese department sponsored its first ever Chinese Cooking Show, Wednesday. This event was held in the Bonchek College House kitchen and was well attended by a wide variety of students, including many who are not taking Chinese courses or of Chinese descent.
Hong Chang Yao, director of the Chinese Language Program, demonstrated the cooking aspects and Shuai Shao, language fellow for the Chinese Language Program, helped prepare the ingredients.
The demonstration featured Sichuan (Szechuan) style cooking, which originated in the Sichuan province in southwestern China. This food has very bold flavors, which are created by Sichuan peppers as well as garlic and chili peppers. Even though the flavors are bold and spicy, the meal usually includes something bland to offset the spiciness. On Wednesday, this was supplied in the form of white rice.
The Sichuan province has always been very rich in food and spices, and this was one of the reasons a new cooking style developed there. There are many different techniques and sub categories of Sichuan. One of the main preparation techniques is stir frying, which was the one used by the Chinese department.
Wednesday’s meal included two types of dishes to go with the rice. Students had the opportunity to watch the dishes being prepared, and they received a thorough description of what was in them as well as the proper preparation techniques. The small space allowed the experience to be very intimate and students were welcome to ask any questions they had.
The first dish prepared was Kung Pao Chicken (Gong Bao Ji Ding). The dish included chicken, cucumbers, and peanuts. Hot chilies, garlic, and a few types of oil were used to season the dish for a unique flavor.
As soon as it was prepared, students were encouraged to take a sample to eat while it was still fresh. The white rice helped subdue the spiciness of this dish, which was definitely different than the Americanized Chinese food students usually get for takeout.
Preparation for the second dish began immediately. This was Ma Po Tofu (Ma Po Dou Fo). The focus of this particular dish was the sauce; it was in a bean sauce which was quite spicy. While tofu was the main protein, the beans augmented it almost like ground beef. The same cucumber and peanuts were used as supplementing ingredients, and, again, the white rice helped to set off the pungent spiciness of the dish.
After these two ‘basics’ were shown, the two professors began working on a few variations and invited students to try their hands at cooking these Chinese staples. While most students looked a little wary, a few stepped up and tested their cooking skills. Everyone in attendance was in good spirits to be learning, tasting, and chatting about these unfamiliar food styles.
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