A review of Lulu’s Chinese cookery class, Newcastle
I’ve been dying to write up my review of this Newcastle cookery class since I went along a few weeks ago because the evening was simply too good to keep to myself. It was the perfect Friday evening – there was food, new friends, laughs and a real belly-bloating serving of seriously sensational carbs.
This is no exaggeration: every single day since I went to the Xi’an noodle making class held by the very lovely Lulu at her home in Newcastle, I have found myself drifting off and dreaming of these noodles. Several times I have found myself salivating at the wheel on my drive home from work as I replay the eating of these noodles in my mind - they tasted that good!
The handmade noodle class is just one of the events Lulu, originally from the Xi’an region, holds at her home. It’s a cross between a supperclub and a cookery class and you can find out about other classes/events she has coming up on her website here. You’ll also find lots of easy to follow recipes on her blog and details of her appearances at regional food events with her authentic street food.
My friend and I paid £36 each to attend the Friday night class, for which we received an extraordinarily warm welcome into Lulu’s home, a hefty starter, several hours of extremely hands-on cookery tuition, a shed load of giggles, some new friends, a superior supper and a take home goody bag too! As with my previous review of Maunika Gowhardan’s Indian cookery class at Blackfriar’s – I won’t be sharing all the secrets of Lulu’s class here as it’s very much in your best interests to head along and experience it for yourself, but I will be touching on some of the simple things I learnt and sharing some snaps I took on the night. it’s also worth noting that the recipe we cooked didn’t require lots of hard to find ingredients and Lulu gave insiders tips on where to buy items we might need in the future.
The evening started with a pile of ribs and a truly lipsmacking cucumber salad, which Lulu prepared before our eyes. Cucumber as the feature of a dish is a strange concept, but we couldn’t stop eating it, despite it being seriously difficult to pick up with chopsticks. The secret was the garlic, chilli and oil Lulu poured on the dish to flavour it. The chilli, which came from Xi’an had a heat that made your lips tingle and tickle but wasn’t so hot that it overwhelmed everything else, it did make you pout a lot though. The ribs were soft and sticky and I stopped eating them only because I was afraid I wouldn’t have room for my noodles.
Lulu started the cookery demonstration by showing us how to make the sauce that would accompany our handmade noodles. The dish itself was a little like a Chinese bolognese and she explained there was some shared ancestry for the dish. Rather than cooking the meat first (pork mince and shredded chicken) she added it directly to the sauce base, which is a tip I’ll be using to keep my meat sauces more moist – Chinese or otherwise.
The very laborious task of kneading the noodle dough for the class was performed by Lulu in advance of our arrival, though she did demonstrate it for us – armed with a chair to allow her to put all of the weight of her petite self behind it while working on her wooden work surfaces (which I eyed enviously).
The main task of the evening – which somehow locked both my shoulders and had us all in fits of giggles – was the noodle slapping. The process of stretching Chinese noodles is all in the wrist action and involves tapping (or more slapping for me and my fellow pupils) the dough off the bench. Here’s my friend Danielle making it look easy:
I’m not sure how long I was slapping my noodles for but it felt like hours and I certainly worked up an appetite doing it. Whether it was my poor technique or just my general arm weakness – by the end of this activity I felt a bit like I’d taken part in the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. However, my efforts were rewarded when Lulu served up my bowlful of noodles topped with sauce and a generous helping of the lip-smacking chilli that transformed that cucumber. This topping with the hot oil dripped through it added a whole other level of flavour to a dish that had been slow cooked with Chinese spices.
My noodles came in a proper deep bowl, as noodles should and though I did eat them with chopsticks at first I was soon shovelling them in with a fork. They were moist, almost sweet and with that slight tingle from the chilli. As a real greedy guts I managed to finish my plentiful portion but some of the other pupils took leftovers home in boxes Lulu thoughtfully had on hand.
For those looking for authentic Chinese food or a different dining experience, Lulu Cooks Chinese will really hit the spot. It’s a bonus that you can take along your own booze to make the evening even cheaper and the teaching group is so small (6-8) that you get a lot of individual attention and very generous servings of food. I’m watching Lulu’s website closely (in a friendly non-stalker fashion) to see where she’s appearing next in an effort to get my hands on some of her street food. Meanwhile, I’m once again daydreaming about these noodles.