Sweet Mandarin offer a fantastic cookery course where you can learn hints and tips of gluten free chinese cooking. Find out a bit about my day on the cooking course in this blog.
Yesterday (21st Jan 2017),I was lucky enough to be invited up to Sweet Mandarin in Manchester to attend their gluten free Chinese cookery course.
It's been a while now since I first went to Sweet Mandarin for a meal with my Mum (which we have reviewed
) and we both fell in love with the place, Lisa and Helen Tse are some of the nicest people you can ever meet and they will do anything for you. So when Lisa asked if I wanted to go to the gluten free cookery course she was holding I couldn't refuse, I knew it would be both fun and interesting.
The course started at 12pm and despite making the hour journey early, I was still the last of seven of us to get there. The restaurant itself was shut at the time the course was being held so there was only us there sat around a large table.
Lisa Tse in the Kitchen at Sweet Mandarin
Lisa started by giving us an overview of what we were going to cook, some of it she was demoing, other bits we'd get to have a go at cooking ourselves. Once she'd talked through the list of 11 dishes we were going to go through in the next 2 hours we all took to the kitchen, kitted out with our Sweet Mandarin aprons.
First up we were shown how to make Spring Rolls, rice paper isn't the easiest to handle so Lisa showed us exactly how we use it. First off she showed us how to make one and then we all had a go at making our own and we all had great success with them, no super soggy or rock hard rice paper in sight!
Ginger, spring onion and blackbean fish going in the steamer
While waiting for the spring rolls to fry we moved onto Chinese Dumplings, something else we got to have a go at making. Lisa had already prepared the pastry but showed us how she should do it at home and how exactly to prepare the filling. She then showed us how to crimp the edges and we had a go at our own dumplings, some came out better than others on that front! The dumplings were then put into a steamer with another dish that Lisa quickly demoed to us, this was fish with ginger, spring onions and blackbeans. It was so quickly put together it was hard to believe you could prepare a meal that fast. Both dishes were put into the steamer and we moved onto dish number four while they steamed away.
In Chinese traditions, serving soup before a meal is a mark of respect so we were shown two different soup dishes, the first is seen in nearly every Chinese takeaway, Chicken and Sweetcorn, the second was a Hot and Sour soup, a soup I'd never had before. First off Lisa showed us all how to make the Chicken and Sweetcorn soup, literally taking only a few minutes and then we all had a go.
Chicken and Sweetcorn soup and Hot and Sour Soup
With only four woks and seven of us we had to cook in two sets, I was in the first set. We were shown how to work the heat for the wok and then we were off, the soup cooks so fast the whole process is complete in just a few minutes. Ladle stock, heat, add in sweetcorn, chicken, stir, dip ladle in salt and sugar, stir, heat off, sesame oil, heat and done! Getting to try the traditional methods of making these foods was remarkable and seeing how Chinese food is prepared so fast was a privilege many people will never get to experience.
Onto the next soup and this one was only demoed to us, prepared with sweet and sour sauce and kung pao sauce, again the dish took just minutes then we all got to taste the soup, and I will admit it was my favourite of all the things we got to try and one I am desperate to try out for myself at home, it was once of the nicest soups I have had, supposedly a hot soup, I actually found it more sweet and warming, a great soup for a cold day.
Our Chinese Dumplings and Steamed Fish
Once we'd finished with the soups, the steamed items had now finished cooking so we got to sample our dumplings and fish, and wow, for something so simple and easy to do after a long work down, the fish was so tasty I think all of us were wishing we could have more than a sample of it!
The simplest dish of the day we got to try was srirachi chicken wings. Cooked chicken wings quickly heated in sriarchi sauce and done, simple yet a very tasty and spicy dish.
Everyone tucking into the Srirachi Chicken Wings
Again the next dishes were simple to throw together, we were all amazed at just how fast these dishes were thrown together, these two dishes were sweet chilli chicken noodles and hoi sin chicken wrap. Lisa told us how to prepare the rice noodles making sure we only put them in hot water and not boil them and then quickly throw chicken, vegetables, sweet chilli sauce and the noodles in a wok and combine them to make such a simple but tasty dish. The second dish, again was all prepared in minutes in the wok, except the wrap. For the wrap a lettuce leaf was used but the filling was to die for, many of the others said they'd never thought to use chicken with hoi sin sauce before so were taken back by how well the two flavours combined together.
Sweet and sour chicken
Sweet and sour chicken was the one everyone was waiting for and one I make regularly using the sweet mandarin recipe (which Lisa kindly let us share a while back
) so I knew how simple this one was going to be. We were shown how to prepare the chicken and coat it in a potato starch solution and then roll in potato starch (this makes amazing chicken nuggets too!) and fry. Then the chicken, pineapple, onion and peppers were added to the wok with with sweet and sour sauce, tossed and then served. Best sweet and sour chicken I've ever had, it is surprising just how the potato starch can make the chicken stay tender and give it so much flavour. It is safe to say the sweet and sour sample didn't stay on the side long, everyone was enjoying it, probably more than the other dishes!
Another simple dish using Sweet Mandarin Curry Sauce was the second to last dish we got to try, this one was done in seconds, onion, cooked beef and then the sauce all heated in the wok and served, that was is and it was one of the nicest curry's I've had. Lisa also mentioned it was great done in a slow cooker, so that's one to try at home when I fancy a curry.
The last dish of the day was a traditional egg fried rice. It is an easy dish but Lisa said many had asked how how to do an egg fried rice as it never turns out like the Chinese, which I had to agree with, mine never turns out like at the Chinese and I found out the key point, use rice cooked the day before, not fresh cooked rice. This is where I'd been going wrong all the time, fresh cooked is very wet, whereas rice cooked the day before has got the dry texture fried rice needs.
After two hours of going through the dishes we headed back into the restaurant for some drinks, took photos and had a chat about our favourite parts of the day and about Coeliac in general. We spent about half hour chatting to Lisa and Helen and relaxing before heading back home. I can honestly say it was a fantastic experience, I learnt so many tips and tricks and had fun in the process and I never knew just how quick and easy Chinese cooking is, I cook the odd Chinese dish but never would I have imagined that things like fish could be done so quickly.
I highly recommend the gluten free cooking course to anyone, so many tips and just generally a fun experience (and the food ain't half bad either!),people yesterday had travelled from all over the country for the experience, it can't be recommended enough, fantastic time with some amazing people. Thank you Sweet Mandarin!