It’s one thing to enjoy what you’re eating, and completely another to understand the skill and artistry with which it’s made! There’s no question – the more you know about Chinese cooking techniques, the more you’ll appreciate Beijing’s foods (and the more you can impress/bore the pants off your friends at the dinner table).

Today, at the Black Sesame Kitchen off Nanluoguxiang, we joined the clumsy cleaver-wielding crowd for a lesson based around tofu. We learned a lot — especially about knife skills, which are absolutely crucial to Chinese cuisine, not to mention crucial for not looking like a barbarian in the kitchen.

Mostly, though, we admired the abilities of the teachers, people who have spent their lives cooking.

Chairman Wang (above photo, centre) is, as one of our fellow students described her, “a born teacher,” looking like the happiest woman in Beijing as she encouraged us gently to position our hands just so, to cut the carrots at a 45-degree angle. The more mistakes we made, the more she smiled, unafraid to grab our hands and show us what to do.

She was honest, letting me know that my twice-cooked tofu wasn’t up to par and told me just what I needed to change. And she conducted the class entirely in Chinese with the help of a translator. It worked for those that didn’t speak Chinese, but it was even better for Chinese learners – we learned more useful language in three hours here than we do in a week of ordinary class!

Check out Black Sesame’s website for more info!

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