After watching Pandas eating their typical Sichuan meal we headed off to learn how to cook Sichuan food with a local family.
Tim had booked this online and we simply showed up in a residential neighbourhood to be collected by our contact. We were all expecting to go to a pretty normal-house-off-alley Chinese family but were a bit taken aback when a Lexus pulled up and we got in.
The lady of the house and our host was a perfectly put together Mrs. Chen. We headed to the local supermarket to collect and try some local fruit and veg and then headed to her 40th floor marble clad penthouse!
Getting out of the lift we said goodbye to the piano teacher for her daughter who was now dutifully working on her homework. Mrs. Chen invited us to some 9 year Pu’er fermented tea which she spellbindingly made up on a special tray and poured continually into tiny ceramic cups.
Then it was time for the cooking – in all reality all the dishes were made up by her home help while we watched as all manner of spices and sauces were thrown into the wok to whip up local favourites such as spicy Mapu Tofu and stir friend chicken and vegetables – all of which was absolutely delicious despite or possibly because of our little hand in it.
Dinner was washed down with a few beers where we learned the very useful lesson that if one says ‘Ganbei!’ then you need to down your drink! We did learn the alternate way of saying cheers but one too many ‘Ganbei’ at the start meant it was forgotten as quickly as learnt.
After dinner I was quickly put to work in carving out a pumpkin to bring to school for Halloween which was the next day!
After more tea we learned that Mrs. Chens husband worked as a property developer who had actually built the complex where they lived (hence first dibs on the penthouse!) and we met him in passing when she dropped us off at the subway.
As we headed off into the Chengdu night we agreed it definitely wasn’t what we expecting. Instead we had an insight into the new Chinese middle class which is the story of the breakneck social change in China over the last twenty years.