Cooking in Shanghai with Shiyin!

One of many great things about living in Shanghai is the availability of cooking classes. I recently attended a plant based Chinese cooking class by Shanghainese American chef Shiyin Wang . He taught some very eager students how to make Sichuan eggplant, Dongbei salad and cauliflower dry pot!

Healthy Vegetables?

Cauliflower dry pot is one of my favorite Chinese dishes but it isn’t as healthy as it sounds. This dish is usually cooked in pork fat (but you wouldn’t know unless someone told you) and may have bits of pork in it. This rings true for many Chinese dishes. Whether you are vegan / vegetarian, celiac, have allergies or simply want to avoid something detrimental to your heart health, learning to cook your own Chinese food is a great idea.

Cooking At Home

As I’ve written here before, cooking at home gives you complete control over your ingredients and calorie content of meals.  Chinese restaurant food may taste fabulous, but the chefs are often making up for a lack of quality ingredients or old vegetables by adding loads of salt, MSG and other mystery ingredients. Having quality ingredients allows you to use less of the “bad stuff” and reduce the oil content without compromising flavor.

Spices used in Chef Shiyin’s class
Lets Get Cooking!

My favorite ingredient was Chef Shiyin’s chili oil.  The oil is flavored with various spices that added a lovely flavor to the cold vegetable and tofu salad. I am looking forward to a class on using Chinese spices and creating your own sauces!

Vegetables used in class.

Shiyin’s classes; part hands-on cooking lesson and part dinner party; bring together a community of Shanghai expats who want a tasty and sustainable way to eat healthier. Shiyin teaches Chinese dishes that bring great flavor to whole foods (mostly vegetables) made from natural, quality ingredients. Moderation is key to this way of cooking.  While the focus is on healthy veggies, it’s ok to include small indulgences as part of a balanced and happy diet. These classes are not about feeling anxious over weight or size, but rather about being happy about tasty, nourishing, nutritious food.

The Numbers

Classes cater for a maximum of 8 people. Expect to cook and eat three dishes. Ingredients are all from Fields, so they are fresh, local, and safe. Wine pairings are included. Future planned classes will feature vegan Chinese food, healthier dumplings and noodles, cooking with ayis, and more! Add Shiyin on WeChat (ID: swangyin) to join a class.

Mushrooms, Chinese celery and bamboo.
Ingredients Used in Class

Oils: Chili oil – Shiyin’s homemade chili oil contains canola oil, Sichuan red chili peppers, Sichuan peppercorns, cumin, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon – and that’s it!. Use it to spice up stir fries or dressings.

Light soy sauce: –the everyday variety used for most cooking. It is salty and rich. Be aware that it contains gluten!

Dark soy sauce: – it’s thicker, sweeter, and smokier due to longer aging and the addition of molasses. Use it sparingly for marinades, braising, and sauces. It burns easily due to the sugar content, so don’t overcook it!

Doubanjiang: – also called broad bean paste – it’s a core sauce of Sichuan cooking. It’s salty, spicy, and pungent, and it’s made from fermented fava beans, soybeans, salt, rice, and spices.

Laoganma: – sometimes called Old Godmother, this venerable sauce is famous in China and abroad. It was created by Tao Huabi for her noodle shop in Guizhou, and soon took on a cult following. The fiery sauce, a combination of chili oil and “chili crisp,” is made with Sichuan pepper and a variety of spices.

Plant Protein: Yuba (Fuzhu) – a “tofu skin” made by skimming off the dense, top layer of soymilk during the making of tofu. It provides calcium, protein and a small amount of iron. It is a traditional meat substitute in Chinese Buddhist cuisine. It usually comes dehydrated, and needs to be soaked for two hours before cooking.

WeChat id for chef Shiyin: swangyin

Good Cookin’

Last week my ayi finished a 4 part healthy cooking class offered by Sproutlifestyle, after all she is as interested in healthy and safe eating as I am and she was due for some professional development. Overall I have the impression that she enjoyed the classes, liked using all the super cooking equipment and has already offered me some advice on using my electric kettle  (change the water  often).

When people come to me for advice on improving their diet one aspect that is most often overlooked is cooking. This really is a bigger cornerstone to good health than we give credit to.  It’s simple, when you cook you control the ingredients. That in itself can go a long way in improving your diet.

Summer, with all the fresh produce around, is a great time of year to try out new recipes from the grill to the garden. Don’t know what to cook? There is this thing called the internet that has recipes and menu plans at the touch of a key. Blog sites with recipes for every taste abound.

Even more fun than using the internet is to take a couple of cooking workshops yourself.  Shanghai is lucky to have plenty to chose, from baking to Indian to Chinese to Raw food. Most recently I learned that Shanghai Young Bakers  is offering public baking classes. In fact Saturday, June 13th you could learn how to make your own baguettes. For those who don’t know SYB, is an organization that provides fully sponsored French bakery training to disadvantaged Chinese youth, providing them with the skills to find qualified jobs. Have more of a sweet tooth? The Shanghai Young Bakers final class for June, June 27th, will be a “Power Puff Tutorial” featuring eclairs, cream puffs, Paris-Brest & Religieuse . C’est bonne! Check out www.shanghaiyoungbakers.com for more information.

Since opening their new store with the beautiful demo kitchen, Sproutlifestyle has been offering cooking classes several times a week. This Saturday, June 13, they will be featuring plant based cooking, focusing on grains. Sign up at www.sproutlifestyle.com

More interested in a cultural cooking experience? There a variety of places and people in Shanghai who offer Chinese cooking classes but my personal and pleasurable experience has been with Mike on Dong Ping Lu (Address: Room 108-109, No.2, Dong Ping Road, by Heng Shan Road, 15821618151).

You may not need a cooking class to get you going but a new cookbook always inspires me.  Eat Well Shanghai distributes Ni Hao Bao Bao a bilingual cookbook by two Shanghai expat dietitians. This little book is great for parents and kids as well. Cooking together is a great way to spend time with your children, having fun and surreptitiously reinforcing healthy eating habits! The best part is Ni Hao Bao Bao is now on sale! So save some money and get this gem from Kate& Kimi delivered right to your door.

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!