April 6th, 2012


Day Three: Aubergine Fritters and Meatball Soup

I skillfully changed into my overalls in the back of the motorized tricycle and rushed to the class… only to find out that Thursdays are 'theory days' and you can dress casually. I barely recognized my classmates without their white hats and aprons. Discussing carbs, proteins and saturated fats in Chinese is more fun than it sounds – the teacher recounted the scandal with poisoned baby formula to emphasize that not all proteins are digestible – yet half the class escaped during the short break. And so did I.

At the stadium, physical education students practiced lining up; the coolest classmate was in charge of the soundtrack and zealously changed tracks on a portable mixing station.

On the rock-climbing hillock bartender majors juggled mockup aluminum bottles and shakers, dropping them all the time.

This week had more holidays than workdays, but Friday was a full-on practice day, at last.

The professor (known to be strict but just) unveiled two dishes of the day: fish-fragrant stuffed aubergine fritters and soup with meatballs.

Students-on-duty washed the onions, peeled the water chestnuts, soaked the huanghua stems and prepared scallion-ginger flavored water (to be added to the mince later).


In the teacher's quick hands each piece of eggplant swallowed a piece of mince.

Here the teacher is not scolding anyone; she is assigning students to groups, to better distribute the upcoming treats.

The dishes get sampled away almost as soon as they turned onto the plates.

Before the practice session, students-on-duty brought the basket with our cleavers (each has a sticker with a name on it) and distributed eggs, aubergines, stalks of onion, lumps of frozen mince and bags of flour.

Oh torture! My hand almost froze into the mince as I struggled to knead it.

Neat jobs like stuffing and pinching are more to my liking, but I hope this doesn't mean I'm destined for pastry, because my heart is in the flaming wok.

Teacher lends a hand hoisting the wok with sizzling fritters.

Divided into four helpings and ready to be slathered in fish-fragrant sauce.

Everyone took turns mixing their own sauce… and every sauce was flawed. Too much sugar, too much vinegar, too smoky, too salty. Oh well, live and learn; that's what we're here for.