Yunnan province of China has an incredible cultural richness as well as a stupendous landscape diversity. But those are not the only things Yunnan can offer you! Its gastronomy and the diversity and quality of its products largely contribute to Yunnan’s attractiveness. During our stay in the old town of Dali, built during the 16th century, and where the Dai ethnic group has developed a large number of delicious specialities (including an original cuisine using flowers), we met Luxi who gave us an unforgettable cooking lesson at her lovely cooking school Rice and Friends. An experience definitely not to be missed!
Rice and Friends : Chinese cooking lessons
At 10:00 in the morning, we met Luxi in the streets of Dali at the rendez-vous point. Arms full of adorable tiny wicker baskets, she tells us that before starting our cooking class she will bring us to the market to buy all the fresh ingredients that we will need for the day. Eagerly, we follow her in the little alleyways full of small market stalls where old ladies in traditional costumes are selling all kind of beautiful fruits and vegetables, as well as appetizing fish and meat. Luxi introduces us, in perfect english, with all the different products on the stalls and explains how to cook them in the local cuisine.
Carrying our little baskets full of fresh products, we follow Luxi back to her house and to her cooking school, Rice and Friends, installed on a charming shaded terrace covered with beautiful orange flowers. This morning, we are only seven people to follow the course. Indeed, to keep the quality of her classes, Luxi never accepts more than ten persons at a time. We are sitting around a large table, drinking a refreshing glass of fresh lime & water, while Luxi starts the course by a global explanation of chinese cuisine. She tells us about its History, as well as its different styles, influences and evolutions, and describes what specialities we can find in the different provinces. Then she teaches us the secret of chinese seasoning without which you can’t make a dish taste properly chinese! She shows us the different oils, vinegars, spices and all the little tricks that will help you to create delicious chinese dishes in the future. It is fascinating!
On Rice and Friends terrace, everyone takes place in front of a wok and a small shiny tray on which the ingredients are delightfully arranged. First, Luxi demonstrates how to prepare the dishes, teaching us the right gestures, methods, preparation times and the right dosages of the seasoning. Then it’s our turn! She stays around us to guide us, answer our questions, control and try our creations.
Cuisine of Yunnan
Today, we start the course by mixing pork mince, herbs and garlic to create a filling that we will use for the preparation of south Yunnan style spring rolls. The « art of rolling » is quite tricky, but thanks to Luxi again, we all master it pretty quickly. Then we fry our spring rolls in the wok until they turn beautifully golden and crispy. It is absolutely delicious!
The two next dishes will be as tasty and yammy as the spring rolls. First we cook a spicy cucumber salad, learning a new special way to dice cucumbers so that they hold the taste of the seasoning better. We let our salad to soak while we prepare the second dish: the typical « grandma’s potatoes »! Behind that funny name is a delicious dish of lightly spiced sauté mashed potatoes, so soft that grandmas have no problem to eat it, even without teeth!
Rice and Friends Cooking School proposes three different classes: classic chinese, Yunnan specialities and dumplings. Each lesson lasts for 5 to 6 hours in a very friendly and relaxing atmosphere. Luxi’s passion has always been cooking. She has been teaching at Rice and Friends since 5 years now. More than a talented cook, she also has a very sweet and lovely personality that makes Rice and Friends definitely outstanding compared to other cooking schools.
We spent an awesome day with Luxi and really enjoyed the three-courses meal we cooked! And thanks to the cultural part of the course, we now understand a lot better Chinese cuisine and China in general.
This day at Rice and Friends was definitely the best activity we had in China so far. If you are a foodie and are spending some time in Yunnan, make sure you don’t miss it!