These days, my day starts at 6:30 with coffee and a piece of fruit. I’m in school by 7:30 to help set up the kitchen (that garlic ain’t gonna peel itself, you know). Midday, I have about an hour and a half for a milk tea and a review of my notes before the afternoon in the kitchen. At 5:00, I rent a little scooter, and scoot back to my hotel to collapse on the bed. Most days, that’s where I stay until the next morning.
But tired or not, the whole reason to be here is food, so on the days that I do have the energy to get back out of bed, I go out to a street stall and order one of the dishes that I have been learning to cook. Of course no two places do the same dish the same way. I used to be a bit more shy about barging into kitchens to ask why they do things this way or that, but now I just sort of walk in and say hello, and nobody seems to mind. I’ve made a lot of friends this way.
For example, the dish called 泡椒鸡杂 — among lots of other similar names. It’s a quick fried dish of chicken organs and pickled peppers. The peppers are the main taste. These are brined from a small pepper called 小米辣, which are one of the two main peppers used for heat in Sichuan cuisine. The most common for pickling are small green ones, but you can also make them from red 小米辣, or from other peppers. Different peppers bring a different taste, and people feel very strongly which one to use.
Beyond this, the dish can be adapted pretty freely. You can replace the chicken organs with beef or pork, and you can also extend the dish with different vegetables. In class, we used the other main pepper, called 二荆条, which you see below. But other restaurants used celery or cabbage.
In any case, “recipes” like my class notes below are purely notional.