Sim's is a fabulous hostel in Chengdu, but that's now why I'm including it in the 'Eats' blog. Lonely Planet had suggested them as one of the places that offer Sichuan cooking lessons, and we had an awesome time and some delicious food.
We called Sim's the day before -- they wanted us to show up in person to make the booking. The cooking lessons are pretty informal, depending on the chef's schedule along with availability by one of the bartenders to translate. Sim's is a bit out of the way on the northern end of the city, but we had a few beers and walked to ChongQing QinMa Hotpot close by
The next day we returned to Sim's at 7pm for our lesson. Our interpreter (aka bartender) was a Shanghainese who had come out 4 months ago to help out at Sim's. Bob (or Bao) took us to the roof deck (6 or 7th floor) that had a small nook with a small kitchen, where our chef instructor was waiting with our ingredients and equipment ready to go.
We chose three dishes - Kung Pao Chicken 宫保鸡丁, Fish Flavored Eggplant 魚香茄子, and Ma Po Tofu 麻婆豆腐
We spent the first part of the class chopping and preparing the chicken (cubed), cucumber (halved and thirded, then seeds sliced off, rest cubed), eggplant (quartered lengthwise then peeled with the cleaver), and tofu (cubed). We also learned to make decorative flowers from pink pickled daikon slices and toothpicks.
Then onto the cooking. It's all about the spices -- minced garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppers (ground and whole), red pepper (ground, whole, and wet), scallion, MSG (yes, MSG), salt, chicken stock, soy sauce, vinegar, and starch, and then oil and water. I figured the blend of spices and sauces, the order, and timing of the cooking was going to be impossible to remember... so it's all on video...
After the dishes were done, we carried them back downstairs and chowed down with some complementary Tsingtao. Yum. Fantastic deal for 100 rmb each.
See http://www.gogosc.com/ for more info on the hostel.