Friday, September 30, 2011

Cooking Classes in Beijing

I’m here with a small tour group led by Pat Dalton of Dalton Textile Tours
Our National Guide is Steven - charming, helpful, eternally good-natured and unruffled - he’s awesome. He takes care of everything - carries bags, haggles over prices with the shopkeepers to get us the best deals, herds us here and there, orders our food. I want to bring him home with me.
Steven and Pat
His girlfriend is a huge fan of Swarovski crystals, which are, apparently, crazy expensive in China, and their selection of styles is far less varied than what we have available to us in the States, so I will be sure to send him a generous package of sparkles as a thank-you gift. 

We took the subway to the Pearl Market, rather than take taxis and sit in traffic. Much better way to travel, and it was kinda fun to be more immersed in "real" life in Beijing, rather than traveling like tourists. BUT - that meant a LOT of walking to get to and from the stations, and a LOT of stairs. A LOT of stairs.

Pearl Market was much like the Chinese vendors at bead shows - lots and lots and lots of pearls - but these are the very expensive types, not $3 strands like we see everywhere we go. Some less expensive, but lots of perfect cultured pearls at $3,000 - $10,000 a strand - eeek!
I didn't buy anything there.

Next we went to Silk Street Market  - 5 or 6 stories of stalls, kinda like a merchandise mart. One or two floors of silk scarves, shawls, bags, etc. One or two floors of jewelry, another floor of just clothing, luggage, etc. High pressure sales techniques abound, chasing you down the aisle, trying to get you to buy something. 
"Hey Lady! You need bag? You need Prada bag?"
"Hey Lady! You buy watch!"
"Hey Lady! Just looking!"
"Hey Lady! You want pearl?"

I freaking hated it!  There were stalls I actually *did* want to look at, but because the salespeople were so pushy, I just ran past them.

The next day we took a class at the Hutong Cooking School.
Spent the morning at a 2-story indoor farmer’s market - meats and noodles and spices and nuts and fruits and vegetables. 

Have you ever had a fresh date?  It tastes crisp and fresh like an apple! Who knew?

We made dry-fried green beans and braised pork ribs and garlic prawns and beef with cumin & chili and chicken with ginger and scallions. 
Nom nom.


  1. Even your market pictures remind me of beads! Funny what we are drawn to, all those round, repetitive images. Aren't the food markets amazing! That's the real deal, not the Hey Lady markets. So many fruits and vegs that are alien to us.

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time. My first time was a 3 week tour with other textile lovers. Oh, I see you went to Yunnan Provice - I chose to live in Kunming because that's where many minorities are and I wanted to collect textiles. Did you stay in a guest house in Lijang? You must have flown Kunming/Lijang - we took the bus and it was a wild ride in the mountains. Good thing I didn't know then about traffic (non) safety, never would've done it.

  2. LOL, "Hey Lady" Markets . . . most appropriate!
    You did a textile tour, too? Cool.
    We didn't visit Kunming, except for a 10 hour layover at the airport - yes, you read that right! Delays, delays, and more delays. Wish we had known it would be so long - we could have run out to one of those mushroom hot pot restaurants instead of eating airport food!
    Unfortunately, that delay cut our time short in Lijiang. Too bad - beautiful area.

  3. Yes, we were about 20 quilters and hangers-ons. I think it was about 1994 or 5. Didn't get back until 2002/3 when I taught English in Kunming for the school year. Funny, I brought a little bead kit with me and never once touched it, too much other stuff to do.

    Loving your pix. You are taking me back and it's a great trip. Can't wait to see the Warriers, had to be a high point, sure was for me. And did you go to Badaling to climb the Wall? (See, I know the itinerary, they take us to all the same places for our first time!)

  4. Bobbi, I'd love to hear more about your travels in Kunming! Moving to China (on your own?) for a year - what an adventure!

    We went to the Great Wall at Mutiyanu, not Badaling (too crowded!). Mutiyanu was about an hour's drive out of Beijing, higher in the mountains. Those pictures will be next!

  5. That produce is so beautiful!