On Wednesday, we had an amazing experience taking a private cooking class with Jodie Tsao. We heard about her class on Trip Advisor and it was rated very highly so we contacted her and set it up and we're so glad we did... it was just awesome!
Jodie speaks perfect English even though she is from Taiwan. She has traveled all over the world... she said that her cooking style blends native Taiwanese cooking with concepts she learned while traveling in Italy. She has been on TV a couple of times, most notably on a Discovery channel program about Asian food. We're going to try to find that on a rerun sometime!
The class was held in her home... she lives in a mountain suburb just outside of Taipei with an incredible view looking down over a valley into the city down below. It was so neat to be able to spend some time in someone's home. She had us remove our shoes and wear slippers which is customary in most asian cultures but other than that, her home wasn't much different from anyone's back home.
The class lasted about 4 hours and for the first couple of hours, she taught us about the basic ingredients of Taiwanese cooking. Jodie is a total foodie... she gets really excited about organic, natural ingredients... she talked a lot about how when you eat healthier how much better it makes you feel. It's hard to argue with that. She taught us about different kinds of sesame seeds, sesame oils, different kinds of salts and sugars used in Taiwanese cooking, different kinds of vinegars, different styles of soy sauce... it sounds kind of dull but she was so passionate that it made it really interesting.
After that we started cooking... it was a total blast. We made spicy szechuan pineapple, white sesame paste and black sesame paste (both were awesome as a vegetable dip, salad dressing, or on noodles), spicy szechuan cucumbers, chinese green onion pancakes (delicious... we told Connor about them though and the thought of onion pancakes grossed him out! He wanted to know if we made chocolate chip), and Jessica's favorite, she taught us how to make authentic Hot and Sour soup. She's ruined us though... after eating her soup, the kind you get in American Chinese restaurants just can't compare. If you've ever eaten it and wondered what all that stuff is, now we can tell you!
The cooking was a lot of fun but the best part was just talking to and getting to know Jodie. We learned more about Taiwan and its culture in a few hours with her than we'll probably learn the whole rest of our trip combined. Jodie asked a lot about the United States as well and I think she was very surprised by some of the things we told her. She said in Taiwan they view all Americans as being very rich and also very strong or powerful. She made it sound like they were a little bit intimidated or afraid of us. She was really surprised to find out that the rich only make up a small percentage... there are a lot more homeless people in the US than there are here... we haven't seen any here in Taiwan and she said that you generally don't. I told her about how many people come through our church food pantry or call asking for help with their bills and that seemed to really surprise her.
I was able to shoot just a little bit of video of the class... I'll try to put that together and show you some of it sometime later today. It was a great experience and if you're ever in Taiwan, we strongly recommend taking Jodie's Cooking Class... you can find her website right here.