When Nev Leaning contacted me and invited me along to visit his School of Wok, my reply was, Woo, yes please! It’s based just along the road from the main part of Covent Garden and I found it easily. Eight of us were gathered round the table with a cleaver and a chopping-board each, and our tutor Yolanda clearly showed us what to do.
Oriental cookery is 80% preparation and 20% cooking. And all you need is a cleaver to prep it all. You hold the cleaver with your whole hand. I was inclined to rest my forefinger on the top, but that’s wrong. Chop with a forward movement all the time. It’s safer and easier. Peel fresh ginger with a teaspoon. I’d never heard that before! Dip garlic in water, then bash it with the flat of your knife/cleaver and the peel comes off easily. Cut an onion in half, then peel it.
We chopped Chinese cabbage leaves, Chinese chives, (I’d never seen them before. You can use a spring onion instead) a bunch of coriander, a large spring onion and an onion. Place the prepared ingredients around on a plate in the order that you’re going to cook them. This is known as a Wok Clock.
After that, we stuffed dim sum pastry circles. You place a teaspoon of the filling in the centre, then wet your finger in a bowl of water and run it round the edge to help it to stick. You need to be shown the rest. We split up into pairs and cooked fried rice and stir-fried Sichuan Chicken. The woks are all non-stick as they get a lot of rough treatment! While we were doing that, Yolanda cooked the Dim Sum, and Flash Fried Morning Glory. I’d never heard of it before. I think I’d use Swiss chard or very young asparagus instead as there’s nowhere local that would sell it. Then we sat down and ate the fruits of our labour, with a glass of wine or a Tiger beer. I had a beer as it nicely balanced the hot, spicy flavour of the Sichuan chicken.
Oh, I love my job! And one of the things that I love most about it is I learn something new every day. If I don’t, I consider it a day wasted! In my three and a half hours at the School of Wok, I learnt not one, but lots of new things. And for that reason alone, it’s well worth booking a lesson there. And apart from that, I had a great time with a lovely group of people. One of the men there had been given the day’s course for his birthday by a group of his friends. I wish my friends would buy one for me!
EGG FRIED RICE
I sometimes make a stir-fried meal at home, but I could never get it to taste like it does in Chinese restaurants. Well, here it is, Dear Readers, the Real Thing, guaranteed to impress your diners!
Cook your rice the day before, and keep it cold in the fridge.
Rice left at room temperature can be very poisonous.
Have your wok at quite a hot temperature.
Tip in a dash of vegetable oil, not olive oil. Vegetable oil has a higher smoking point. Olive oil burns quick!
When smoke appears, crack an egg into the wok. Quickly break it up with your spatula/slicer and keep moving it about.
Push it to the side when it’s cooked, scraping off all the bits.
Add a bit more oil, then the rice.
Push the egg on top of it. Mix rapidly. Add some peas. Cook it and keep it moving.
Add a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir it all again for several seconds.
Tip it into a bowl.
You should have a clean wok with nothing stuck to it!
Serve at once.
There is a choice of courses, including a three-week course, run by Jeremy, the Chinese chef, who has appeared on TV.
Recently, a lady came from Brazil to do it, then she went home and opened her own catering school!
Ken Hom will be at the School of Wok on Friday 28th November.
Check the website for other events.
61 Chandos Pl, London WC2N 4HG. The closest tube station is Charing Cross. You can see our location on google maps here