Hong Kong: Martha Sherpa’s Cooking School

August 5th, 2010 § 6 comments

Martha Sherpa runs a tight ship.

I started strong. Our first task was to slice some ginger, and Martha used my translucent pieces as an example for the other students — a maid sent to class by her boss and a 20 year old kid from Hong Kong going to school in Boston  sent to Martha by his mother to make him more well-rounded. She nodded approvingly in my direction.

But then it was time to de-bone chickens.  I butchered the thing.  No, that’s not right. Butchers know how to do this, and I clearly didn’t. Martha looked at my work and just shook her head.

The poor battered bird was for a dish of steamed rice, shitake mushrooms, and chicken, one of five recipes we made in the day-long “Chinese Wok Cookery” class.  Having recently inherited a wok when a friend moved, this seemed like a perfect topic, though Martha offers a range of courses in her Mongkok studio, from Chinese to Thai, from dim sum to dessert.

We made braised yi-fu noodles with shitakes, yellow chives, and oyster sauce; steamed chicken with shitakes, cloud ear fungus and daylilies; Stuffed tofu and vegetable soup; and crispy fried fish with corn and egg sauce.

I learned a lot. I learned that knife skills are important for flavor as much as texture; that thinly sliced ginger permeates the whole dish rather than jutting out in big hot bites. I learned that the Chinese preference is for hard, springy meat (and fish) balls, and how to work the mixture to achieve this texture. I learned that tossing meat with a bit of starch before adding the rest of the marinade helps create a glaze when the meat is steamed that keeps it from drying out. I learned that “Asian sole” is a euphemism for catfish.

It was obvious after the day that most of my European-based kitchen skills were useless in this kind of cooking.  In retrospect I think I got lucky with the ginger, because it was apparent my cleaver skills were lacking.  “It’s not a French knife,” Martha said, laughing.


But I left armed with a stack of recipes and knowledge, a list of pantry items to stock, and a belly full of food that I can’t wait to try and make at home.

Martha Sherpa’s Cooking School on Argyle St. in Mongkok, Kowloon, by appointment only +852 2381 0132 or info@cookery.com.hk Prices range from HK $1500 to $2600  ($193-335 US) for a full day. Visit the website for full schedule and pricing.

Read more about Martha Sherpa’s school at Gourmet.

See all my photos from Hong Kong on Flickr.

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§ 6 Responses to Hong Kong: Martha Sherpa’s Cooking School"

  • Phyllis says:

    How fun. Everything looks delicious too. I would love to take a Chinese cooking class as my last attempt at wok cooking was a complete failure.

  • betsy says:

    Great review. Many thanks for sharing. My 22 year old daughter is in Hong Kong working as an intern; a day-long course is the perfect Christmas gift for her!
    We’re also new homeowners in Paris’s 7th. I look forward to reading more of your blog, so please do keep up the good work!

  • Ashley says:

    Keeping up with the bootcamp? I was searching for my next dream vacation, cooking in Thailand, and china/ hong kong and you popped up! Thanks for getting me in touch with that girl from the ferrandi school, i start next week and it’s thanks in part to you. So thank you! And yum, those noodles look delicious!

  • Barbra says:

    Hi Ashley! Glad to hear about your Ferrandi plans. Next stop Hong Kong??

  • Ross says:

    Hi, I’m a retired Aussie bloke well into my 60s and I love Chinese food. I’m not a bad home cook, but I lack the skills and finesse for the finished product. After reading your reviews I’ve booked in for two days mid year and have a go at it. I hope I survive it.

  • Barbra says:

    Good luck, Ross, I’m sure you’ll do fine! Just do exactly as Martha says…

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