cooking with guo yue
there were 8 of us in the class and the recipes for the day were:
sesame prawn on toast
fragrant pearls: steamed scallops with coriander and chilli
handmade noodles with lobster and asparagus
hot sichuan butterfly prawns
hong shao yu (red stewed fish)
steamed transparent dumplings with fresh salmon and chinese chives
steamed rice inside a lotus leaf with fresh shrimps and chinese mushroom
when we arrived guo yue was at the front of the room, preparing his ingredients and chatting to people as they arrived. without warning he started into his first recipe – sesame prawn toast. this is a wonderfully simple dish; white bread topped with finely chopped prawns and sesame seeds and then fried.
as we passed pieces round the classroom guo yue started to steam scallops (with a little crushed garlic) and prepare a fragrant hot chilli oil to pour over them. a garnish of finely chopped spring onion and some coriander was all that was needed to create one of my favourite dishes of the day. the first item for my chinese shopping list was noted – bamboo steamers.
preparation of the steamed rice was next and we all learnt the key to cooking perfect steamed rice – put the rice in the pan, place your finger into the pan, vertically, and let the tip of it touch the rice. add enough water to come half-way up between the first and second knuckle and that’s all there is to it. when the water is gone, the rice will be ready (add a little less water if you are planning to steam the rice in a parcel such as this dish requires).
it was then our turn to get stuck in. we made a simple dough – flour and water – which was left to rest for 15 minutes before we started rolling it out to make noodles.
this resulted in me learning my favourite tip of the day – when rolling the dough with a rolling pin, don’t roll over the centre. this means you’ll be left with a “knob” in the middle that you can use to rotate the dough and keep it circular. as the dough reaches its ideal thickness you roll this out and then continue as normal (we applied this same technique later in the day when making the dumpling wrappers). the rolled dough was then folded like a concertina for cutting.
the transparent dumplings dough was made with potato flour and wheat starch – the resulting dough is wonderfully jelly-like and something i look forward to making at home. the filling we used was a wonderful mixture of very lightly steamed salmon (the outside was cooked but the centre still raw) with chinese chives (much more fragrant and garlicky than “normal” chives) and a little seasoning.
guo yue then made a dish from his childhood in beijing – hong shao yu or red stewed fish. this dish was incredible – grey mullet cooked with various flavourings to create a strongly coloured, deeply flavoured sauce (sichuan peppers, star anise and ginger were the predominant flavours).
we all sat down to tuck in with a glass of wine as guo yue finished off the other dishes and served them to us – our noodles were cooked with lobster and asparagus, and the rice was served with hot sichaun butterfly prawns.
i left feeling energised and inspired, thanks to the warmth and passion that guo yue shared with us. so inspired in fact, that on the way home i bought some sea bream so i could recreate the hong shao yu for supper!