There’s nothing I like more than than trying my hand at cooking a cuisine I love. Except eating it! So what better way to spend an evening at School of Wok learning to cook a Hong Kong menu and chowing down on some fab Chinese food with Chef Jeremy Pang.
School of Wok
Last week I was invited up to London to School of Wok with some other foodie/travel bloggers by Hong Kong Tourism Board – to learn a bit about Hong Kong and try my hand at cooking up some of its favourite dishes.
School of Wok in London’s Covent Garden teaches the art of Oriental and Asian cuisine which just happens to be my favourite type of food. How uncommonly lucky! We took the basic cooking class but they also teach proper culinary courses to professional cooking school standards.
As we only had a couple of hours all the chopping and prepping was done for us, ‘so you can drink’ said Chef. One of the main ingredients of the class is a decent measure of humour. Jeremy comes from three generations of Chinese chefs and studied at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu. I tried hard to get a good shot of our chef but he doesn’t keep still! Pang is so full of energy and passion about Chinese food and constantly gesticulating and smiling that he came out a bit blurry in all my pics… Jazz hands!
First up we attempted the art of Jaozi making – Chinese dumplings to you and me. Flat discs of dough, about the size of a beermat, were stuffed with a delicious mix of pork mince, chives, Chinese mushrooms, coriander and the three ‘holy-grail’ ingredients of Chinese cooking; ginger, spring onions and garlic. We then folded the dumplings into little half-moon shaped parcels ready for deep frying. I got there in the end but the basic dumpling fold is much more fiddly than it looks and I seemed to have far too many fingers and thumbs.
Our finished dumplings were whisked away to be deep fried while we moved into the kitchen at the back of the class for the next dish on our menu.
Clay Pot Chicken and Mushroom Rice
This dish is cooked on the hob in a clay pot. It’s cooked slowly so the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot which gives it a lovely crispy, golden layer of rice followed by a soft fluffy layer, topped with succulent chicken. First put two cups of jasmine rice into the clay pot after being rinsed thoroughly to get rid of any starch and mix thoroughly with one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add 1.5 cups of water to every cup of rice and bring the rice brought to the boil on a medium heat. Once a vigorous boil is reached the heat is reduced and the chicken mix is added. This consists of boned chicken thighs, Chinese mushrooms, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar and one teaspoon of corn flour all mixed in together with bare hands (don’t forget to wash them after this bit). The lid goes on and the dish is simmered for around 20 minutes on a low heat. A really easy dish to make.
Hong Kong Fried Noodles
The final dish on the menu was Hong Kong Fried Noodles and a wok master class. You might think this is the easiest dish to cook but not so. The cooking is all in the wok control and how hot you let your wok get. This is controlled by moving it closer to and then away from the heat. We used very basic metal woks with rounded bottoms. Don’t even think non-stick they’re no where near authentic enough.
The ingredients are all prepped and chopped ready for the main event. The stir-frying happens so quickly that you really do need every ready before you begin cooking.
Two tablespoons of oil are added to the wok and spread around with the back of a metal ladle until the oil is rippling and smoking. The Chinese greens hiss as they’re added and worked back and forth with the ladle for a couple of minutes. Next the bean sprouts dive in with a splutter as they’re moved around the wok. The smell in the kitchen at this point is divine!
The mix is all pushed to the back of the wok while more oil is added and heated until it’s smoking at which point the noodles join the party. This is where it gets tricky because after adding a dash of dark soy sauce we had to push the stir-fry back and forth with the ladle while circling the wok with our other hand. A bit like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time – I never was any good at that. In go some finely sliced spring onions and a dash of sesame oil for a fizzling finale and we’re ready to dish up.
We head back into the dining area while the havoc we’ve wrought in the kitchen is quickly cleared away by the wok fairies. Our deep-fried Jiaozi are brought out as a starter; golden, crisp crescents filled with warm garlicky minced pork spiked with bursts of ginger and coriander. We dip them into a mix of soy sauce, vinegar and matchsticks of ginger and it all goes quiet with just the odd sigh escaping as we bite into the scrumptious crispy parcels.
The Clay Pot Chicken and Hong Kong noodles are served and we take up our chopsticks and tuck into the fruits of our labours. The Clay Pot Chicken is tender and full of flavour contrasting beautifully with the crisp chewiness of the rice and complements the glistening stir fry sitting in its nest of noodles.
While we’re eating Chef Pang tells us about his favourite Hong Kong eateries, street food stalls and his love for the city. He’s recently made a serious of You Tube videos where he explores the city and even takes on a Kung Fu master!
The class at School of Wok was a really fun and tasty evening and even inspired me to try and recreate the Hong Kong noodles for friends at the weekend. I think they liked them! But it’s also really got me thinking about Hong Kong and its food heritage which I’d love to explore further. Have you been to Hong Kong? What did you think of the food and what was your favourite dish?
A big thank you to Hong Kong Tourism Board for inviting me along for this fabulous foodie evening and thanks to School of Wok and Jeremy Pang for teaching us how to be wok stars!
Suzanne Jones is creator, writer and photographer at The Travelbunny. When she’s not indulging her wanderlust you’ll most likely find her enjoying coastal walks in her home county of East Sussex, UK.
Suzanne co-writes Sussex Bloggers which showcases the best of East & West Sussex.