Chinese Food Class, Part I

I recently attended a two-part Chinese Food class, offered by the Confucius Institute of NC State University. The Institute mainly offers semester-long Chinese language classes, but they also have shorter classes on Chinese music and food.

The class I took was not a cooking class, per se, but a class to learn about the Chinese food culture. The first class was for a few hours on a Tuesday night at A&C Supermarket in South Raleigh. I had driven past this place many times, but never realized that a huge Asian grocery store was there! We met in the food court area where we were encouraged to buy dinner and sit together to eat and chat, getting to know each other a little bit until everyone showed up.

I was so hungry, the food was so tasty, and the conversation so interesting that I actually forgot to take a photo of my plate before I ate everything on it! There were a number of Chinese students (from NCSU, I assume) eating solo and in pairs, so based on that cue and the offerings on the menu (which included cow stomach), I’m assuming that this is pretty authentic food – or at least more so than many of the local Chinese takeout joints. I had some fresh stir fried bok choy which was delicious, and I also very much enjoyed an eggplant and tofu stir fry – the remnants of which are shown at the bottom of the photo above.

We then proceeded to have a slide show about the different regions in China and how their food differs. For example, in northern China the climate is cool enough that rice does not grow well, but they do grow a lot of wheat. That’s where many of the dumpling and noodle dishes originated.  We asked a lot of questions during the presentation, and then we walked around the grocery store.   A Chinese student who came along to help teach, Dong Shu, gave us some suggestions of how she cooks and the ingredients she uses.

This grocery store has quite a large produce section, and I was interested in many of the items, like fresh lotus root, Chinese okra, and about 6 different kinds of bok choy – yum!  I also noticed that they have some of the Vietnamese ingredients and herbs that I used last year during that month of cooking. They also have quite a selection of cooking utensils, pans and woks – it looked like a restaurant supply area.

Not everyone came away with groceries, but while we were going through the store I did some actual shopping, buying some of the suggested ingredients to play with. If any of you have ideas about what to do with these items, please let me know! Dong Shu said that she uses the spiced dry tofu (in the green package) just to cut up into a vegetable stir fry. The orange package on the left is a spicy hot pot mix (I’ll describe hot pot in the next post), and the jar is spiced preserved bean curd. And I also bought a dark soy sauce, who knew there were light and dark soy sauces for different purposes? The dark has less sodium and is used to add color to meat dishes, while the light has more salt. The dark soy sauce is the bottle on the left, and a dark rice wine vinegar is next to it.

And here are a couple of things I didn’t buy;

I’ll follow up with a second post for our part 2 class, where we met at a restaurant in Cary for a Chinese feast to celebrate the end of semester with all the language class participants. It will mostly be a photo journal of what we ate.

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