I'm back in Shaoxing for the weekend after 3 weeks of culinary school. So what is it like? For starters, it's a very intense program. Within the past three weeks, I have worked the hardest I have ever worked- physically and mentally to make the most out of this experience. It took me several weeks to get comfortable and used to everything about the school. Everything that I took for granted before: electricity, heat, hot water, washing machine, and internet were all unavailable in my dorm. Even though I had several challenges during the first couple of weeks, I have to say I'm learning and enjoying the program quite a bit. The main reason why I am enjoying the program is because of my classmates- they truly are the real teachers (even more than the actual teachers) in this program and have been unbelievably patient with me for the past few weeks to answer any questions or requests that I have. Overall, I'm glad that I'm in the program and it is definitely worth the sore arms, calloused fingers, and cuts and all. Below is my detailed schedule and my overall daily routine:
When I found out I would be teaching in China back in July of this year, I assumed the experience would be similar to my past two trips and go off without a hitch. Unfortunately, I was dead wrong. As many of you already know, traveling the world with a US passport is pretty convenient. We can travel to a multitude of countries, no visa required. Hong Kong and Taiwan both allow US passport holders to enter for 30 days, no questions asked. The UK allows visa-free entry for up to 6 months. China, however, does not. Formal visas are required for any duration of travel within the borders of the People's Republic. Click to read on about our crazy visa adventures.
We just got back from Hong Kong to renew our visas (I'll save that for another post). Putting our stresses aside, we were looking forward to one of the best things about Hong Kong: the food. There are an endless amount of places to eat, but below is our list of different foods that are worth checking out.
It's now official! In several weeks, I will be attending 杭州东方烹饪学校 [Hángzhōu dōngfāng pēngrèn xuéxiào], a culinary school a hour away from downtown Hangzhou. I'm learning how to cook about 100 dishes, honing my chopping skills, and living in the dorms for next two months. I'm extremely excited, yet terrified of this day, but I know this will do wonders for my Mandarin and my cooking skills. So now I'm off to studying culinary terms and watching Chinese cooking videos in preparation for this. Wish me luck.
[Editors' note: We have decided to scrap the travel section and post all travel related posts in here from now on.]
Greetings from beautiful Shaoxing! Just wanted to let all our readers know that we've been settling in our spacious 6th floor apartment for the past two weeks or so. I'm teaching English at Shaoxing No. 1 Middle School Branch, so school started on September 1, and I have been keeping busy with classes, office hours, and study halls. Jin Li arrived about a week or so after me and has been busy getting back to blogging, eating, and exploring the city. So far, the weather has been pretty hot and sunny. The school we live at is a 30-minute bus ride away from downtown Shaoxing, so getting into the city is sometimes a bit difficult. There's not a lot going on in our neighborhood, as it's sort of a development zone with lots of high rise apartment construction going on. There is a bit of street food to be found when kids are going in and out of school, and there are also some smallish restaurants not far from the school that make pretty tasty standard dishes. The school cafeteria is also an option, but is only open for about 45 minutes during each meal, and serves 4000 students, so we don't go there too much. This weekend we are looking forward to taking some time to thoroughly clean and organize our apartment as well as to go downtown to explore some true Shaoxing culinary delights. Stay tuned for more posts about our adventures!
I'll admit that I didn't like kimchi when I first tried it years ago. I didn't appreciate the pungent smell, spiciness, and sourness of it back then. It wasn't until the beginning of this year when I worked on the Kimchi Taco Truck that I truly began to appreciate all of the elements that make up kimchi. While working on the truck, I met my fellow co-worker and friend Vicky Oh who told me about her family business, Arirang Kimchi, located in Englewood, New Jersey (www.arirangkimchee.com). She brought in some of her artisan handmade kimchi weeks later for me to try. The first bite of her kimchi tasted equally crunchy, sour, and fresh. I've had my fair share of kimchi (I was a kimchi taste tester for Serious Eats) and it really was one of the most delicious kimchis I've ever tasted. The flavors and textures of the napa cabbage, Korean radish, salted shrimp, red pepper sauce, garlic, anchovy sauce, ginger, scallions, sugar, and salt were all nicely balanced. It wasn't trying too hard - it packed just the right amount of punch, bringing your full attention to the spices that make up its flavor base. As great kimchi tends to do, Arirang Kimchi also focuses on the most important details: fresh and simple ingredients. Overall, it was surprisingly refreshing and in my opinion, ranks above and beyond in taste and quality when compared with the majority of the national and NYC kimchi brands out there.
Brendan and I want to apologize on not following up on our blogging duties. We have a very good reason though: Brendan and I are moving to China! We've been ecstatic about this move and have been dreaming of going back since our last visit in 2008-2009. Brendan was offered a teaching job at a high school in Shaoxing- two hours away from Shanghai. I, on the other hand, will be attending culinary school mainly in Hangzhou, but will also take cooking classes in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other parts of China. We can't wait to share our adventures for the next year with all of you on the blog!
Thanks again for sticking with us and stay tuned for many posts in the future.
Makiko Itoh is the woman behind the popular Japanese food blog Just Hungry. She blogs about home cooking, traveling, Japanese food, and also bento box ideas at the Just Bento blog. She recently published her first cookbook, The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches To Go, earlier this year. Check out our interview with her after the jump.
New York Loves Japan will feature over 100 different types of sake and food from 15 amazing restaurants. Tickets start at $100, with all proceeds going to the Japan Red Cross to benefit people who have been affected by the earthquake via our non-profit organization partner Project by Project http://www.projectbyproject.org/. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.nylovesjapan.com/.
Below is more information about the event:
Project by Project presents
NEW YORK LOVES JAPAN
...A Sake and Chefs' Tasting to Benefit Relief Efforts in Japan
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
6 p.m. - 7 p.m.: VIP Tasting Hour (Daiginjo Tasting, gift bags, sake specialists)
7 p.m. - 10 p.m.: General admission
In collaboration with New York's premier sake and restaurant community, Project by Project proudly presents New York Loves Japan, an evening of 100 tastes of sake with food pairings to pay tribute to the culture and the rebuilding of communities in Japan.
General admission: $100 ($125 at the door)
VIP admission: $175
Participating restaurants include: 15 East, Bond Street, Bozu, Buddakan, EN Japanese Brasserie, Geisha, Hibino, Kaijitsu, Kyotofu, Matsuri, Sakagura, Tanuki Tavern, wd-50, and more!
Sake sponsors: Joto Sake, Vine Connections, Japan Prestige Sake, Tipping Brothers, Sake Discoveries, Mutual Trading Company, Winebow, Sake One, Kuramoto USA, World Sake Imports, Dreyfus Ashby/Haktsuru, Southern Wine and Spirits, MSJ Selections, Wine of Japan, Ozeki, Akita Sake Promotion and Export Council, Niigata Selections
If you can't attend the event, you can still donate on the NY Loves Japan website to help support the cause. Click on the thumbnails below for the flyers of the event!