Home’s Cooking Class: A Taste of Home-Cooked Chinese Cuisine

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is live with a host family and learn the local recipes. So while arranging a homestay in Hong Kong would have been slightly challenging during my four-day stay, I went for the next best thing- a home cooking class in a local home- Home’s Cooking.

Visiting a Local Wet Market

My cooking instructor, Joyce, made me feel right at home from the start, and her impeccable English made communication easy.

When I first walked into the market I remarked, “Well, it’s kind of similar to the markets in France. Just not as many flowers. And you probably can’t pay with a credit card.”

“Really?” responded Joyce, with disbelief.

As I walked around, I realized that she was right. From the butchered fish on the table with their hearts still beating to the muddy lotuses roots in baskets, I admitted to myself, okay fine. It wasn’t like France at all.

Cooking Class Hong Kong

Cooking Class Hong KongThe fishmonger who wanted his picture taken and the fish with their hearts still beating.Cooking Class Hong Kong

It was fun exploring the market with a local, as I was able to ask questions about all of the foreignness around me. When I pointed out durian, a fruit I’ve been warned against countless times, Joyce responded, “Oh yes. I love durian.” I was surprised- I hadn’t realized that anyone loved the fruit that I’m told “smells like burnt hair and tastes even worse.” Fascinating.Cooking Class Hong Kong

Cooking Class Hong Kong

Overall I loved the market: the hustle and bustle, the arguing in Cantonese, the uber-fresh and exotic produce. It was also fun interacting with the vendors, who kept asking me to take their pictures.Cooking Class Hong Kong

Cooking Class Hong Kong

Cooking Class Hong Kong

Learning How to Cook Chinese Food

Cooking Class Hong Kong

After the market, we took the subway back to Joyce’s highrise apartment. We started out by prepping the ingredients, which I soon learned is a lengthy task in Chinese cooking- no knives at the table means lots of chopping for the cook!Cooking Class Hong Kong

Joyce then showed me a few cooking techniques: steaming and stir-frying.

Cooking Class Hong KongSteaming some veggies- super healthy! And isn’t that contraption a great idea?Cooking Class Hong Kong

With stir-frying, Joyce taught me to heat the wok for about five minutes until it’s extremely hot, and then you coat it with sunflower oil, making sure the wok is completely lubricated with oil. Then you had the ingredients and stir vigorously, making sure to stir the whole time. (As Joyce kept telling me- stir more!)

Next we steamed veggies with minced garlic and a bit of oil. One important thing I learned through the course was that everyday Chinese food is incredibly healthy. I come from a nation that thinks of Chinese food as deep-fried and covered with sweet and sour sauce but the meal we cooked was mostly vegetarian and low in fat-  lots of steamed vegetables and tofu stir-fried in sunflower oil.

I also learned a lot about rice, China’s staple starch. Chinese families often use rice cookers, and you should never put soy sauce directly on rice (um, I’ve been doing it wrong all this time). And you shouldn’t flavor rice with anything. Just stick in rice cooker with water. Not even salt!

A few notes on seasoning as I’m a nerd: you should dress some dish with sesame oil, but never use it as a cooking oil. Sesame oil is too expensive to use as a cooking oil, and it loses flavor if you cook with it anyway. If a certain dish has less flavor, finish it with sesame oil and soy sauce. If the dish is already flavorful, leave it plain.

Okay, end nerdiness.

Cooking Class Hong Kong

I loved the personal aspect of the course, and as the only student that day, I felt like one of the family. We waited for Joyce’s six-year old daughter to get home from her first day of school, and in she came wearing a light-blue schoolgirl outfit and chattering in lightening fast Cantonese. As she ate, I noticed that Joyce chided her, “Pick up your bowl when you eat!” the exact opposite of what I was taught as a child.

It’s moments like this that make you realize life is kind of the same everywhere. The overwhelmed mother griping about the syllabus requirements, the kid who just doesn’t want to go to school.

Cooking Class Hong KongWhen I didn’t finish every grain of rice in my bowl, Joyce told me about how her grandmother used to tell her that the leftover grains of rice in bowl would become pockmarks in her future husband’s face. I will now be finishing my rice, ha.Cooking Class Hong Kong

Our super-healthy final product!

Have you ever learned how to cook traditional Chinese food?

A big thanks to Home’s Cooking for the complimentary cooking class. They in no way insisted that I write a favorable review, and all opinions are as always my own.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

26 thoughts on “Home’s Cooking Class: A Taste of Home-Cooked Chinese Cuisine”

  1. This sounds like such an awesome & fascinating experience. And you’re totally right about the American perception of Chinese food being a bunch of deep fried stuff – it’s interesting to see a completely side of Chinese cuisine!

  2. This is such a cool insight as to how REAL Chines food is made. I knew there had to be more than deep friend General Tso’s. ;) That market looks so intimidating! Although maybe it’s just the still beating hearts…the nerd in ME wants to see that! It’s awesome that you had a guide there. Cool experience!

    • The market was definitely intimidating but having a guide seriously helped… I would’ve been so lost otherwise! And if you make it out to HK I’d highly recommend a cooking class to satisfy your inner nerd :)

  3. That looks delicious! And definitely more healthy than what North Americans eat.
    Also, good to know about the sesame oil. You’re not that nerdy. OR. I’m equally nerdy. I enjoyed the nerding out and could have done with more! x

  4. “butchered fish on the table with their hearts still beating” – Now this is a scene that I would love to see for myself. Imagining it made me really excited and would want a trip to Hong Kong.

  5. I had heard that the food in China was a lot different from what we get back home, but I didn’t realize that the food in Hong Kong was so much different from what you find in the rest of China. Let’s just say, I definitely preferred what we found in HK, beating fish hearts and all! ;)

    I really wanted to do a cooking class when we were in HK but they are SO EXPENSIVE. Because there is two of us, if a course costs more than $50USpp, it’s a very expensive day out. Once we got to South East Asia and I saw how cheap the cooking classes there were, I was glad I had held off: we would often learn 4 dishes for less than $30US per person! Maybe the next time I go back and am not traveling long-term I can pony up for a class here.

    Also, I loved the tip about the sesame oil! I had never heard that before and it’s definitely good to know!

    • It was definitely an expensive course for $70 a person! And you’re so right- it seems like cooking classes here in Southeast Asia are much, much less expensive- like many other things as well! :)

  6. I miss the Asian markets so much! I love that you can get literally anything you want, and practically still alive.You know it’s fresh, without preservatives, and probably didn’t travel too far from the farm or the ocean to get there.

    I attempted to cook while I was living in Mainland China several times, though I was limited to a countertop stove that took up the entirety of the counter, and a microwave and rice cooker. The most fun part was shopping, and getting a week’s worth of food for about $20USD!

    Now that I’m back in The States, I’ve begun attempting to cook Asian dishes. I’m document my process on the blog, with photos and recipes…a few of them have actually turned out pretty good, shockingly!

    Enjoy Hong Kong. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world.

  7. One of my favorite experiences in China was when one of my students invited me to her home for dinner. Her mom created a huge home cooked meal with several courses. It was such an honor and a delight to get to try authentic cuisine. One of the dishes was a soup made from plum and honey. I wish I could find the recipe!!!

  8. Now I miss my parents’ home cooking. Sesame oil is definitely one of their secret ingredients. Also if I ever see you put anything on your rice I will punch you. PS, love the photos! 50 mm?

  9. Hi Ashley,

    I’ve been googling for a class in Hong Kong for when I go in September and this looks right up my street!
    sadly the link to the website you note has expired, do you have an email address for Joyce so I could contact her ? Trip advisor has reviews from August so i presume she is still doing the lessons.


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