black sesame kitchen

December 1st, 2011 / by / in: travel / No responses

I said that this entry was going to be about Wangfujing, but I lied. It’s going to be about cooking instead! While in Beijing, Mike and I took a cooking class at Black Sesame Kitchen. Taking a cooking class in a foreign country is a pretty awesome way to experience some food and culture in a way that you can take home with you.

Black Sesame Kitchen was started by Jen Lin-Liu, who wrote the book Serve the People in the photo above. She moved to Beijing to attend cooking school and ultimately opened her own. Several of the chefs in the book now work at Black Sesame Kitchen — the chef for our class was Chef Zhang from the book.

The class that we went to was a tofu cooking class and it was actually the school’s first Tuesday class so we were the only ones there. Private cooking class for only 300 yuan (about $47)! The dishes we made were: Cold-Tossed Shredded Tofu Salad, Mapo Tofu, and Twice-Cooked Tofu.

The place was only a five minute walk through the hutongs from our hotel. Heizhima Hutong was a bit hard to find but the instructions they sent are excellent so we didn’t wander for too long.

Hanging out before the class started.

 Candice, the instructor/translator, started off with a lesson about Chinese cooking basics that included an introduction to all the Chinese staples.

Then we chopped vegetables and tofu for the cold tofu salad. Okay, my knife skills are pretty lacking to begin with, but using a giant Chinese knife was hard. I’ve never used one — I’m used to a chef’s knife.

Mike, however, really liked the Chinese knife and found it easier to use than I did. One of the first things he did when we got back to Toronto is head to Tap Phong and get one of his own. As an added bonus, it only cost $8 and he loves it more than our pricey $100+ chef’s knife.

Tofu! We did most of the prep and then Chef Zhang did a cooking demonstration.

Chef Zhang doesn’t speak English, so Candice provided translation. Candice was really fun and great at answering our questions. She’s working on a Black Sesame cookbook so when it comes out, you should all buy it!

Twice-Cooked Tofu

The same tofu, but on rice. You know, for eating.

Eating time is the best time.

Chef Zhang making the Mapo Tofu. You might have had Mapo Tofu before, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this was better than the takeout you get from your local Ho Lee Chow. Just a guess.


After Chef Zhang finished his demonstrations, it was our turn to try cooking the dishes. Or rather, Mike’s turn. I was busy eating.

 Ta-da! Mike’s Twice-Cooked Tofu. Very delicious.

Mike tries his hand at Mapo Tofu.

Don’t worry, Chef Zhang was there to make sure you didn’t do anything weird or burn the tofu or add too many Sichuan peppercorns.

Mike’s Mapo Tofu! Looks just as nice as Chef Zhang’s version, no? Chef Zhang even tried Mike’s dish and expressed satisfaction.

The class was super fun (and tasty!) and I would definitely recommend it if you’re ever in Beijing. I really wanted to attend their “Friday Wine n’ Dine” where a 10-course meal is prepared in front of you and served with wine pairings, but we were tragically leaving Beijing on Friday. Next time!


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