Yang Sing make it dim sum simple
Being taught how to cook amazing Cantonese dishes from a master is a rare thing indeed. But deep in the kitchens of Yang Sing on Princess Street in Manchester’s China Town you can find Harry Yeung, sharing his culinary skills.
We were invited down to check out the classes – and who better to ask than health and nutrition expert Sara Perry who actually lived in China for a number of years. She’s someone who knows her noodles!
Having lived and worked in China for a fair few years I consider myself a bit of a Sinophile, so jumped at the chance to try out the Chinese cookery course at Yang Sing.
Along with my fellow apprentice Cantonese chefs (there were eight of us on the course in total) we were greeted enthusiastically by Bonnie Yeung (the owner’s daughter) and presented with our very own Yang Sing apron.
After a brief inquiry as to whether any of us were squeamish or vegetarian, we made our way up to the 2nd floor with Bonnie explaining some of the history and provenance of the restaurant to us.
And then the fun began. We were led into a huge kitchen with one very smiley chef working away in the corner. We were right in the heart of the Cantonese Duck preparation area and we were going to have a go.
Whilst the chef showed us how to season the duck and prepare it for the pre-roasting drying process, Bonnie explained the importance of using a variety of flavours and different cooking styles to create the Ying and Yang vital to good Cantonese cuisine.
We prepared our ducks with relish though some were a little retistent when it came to arranging the head and neck to make the duck ‘look good’ on it’s hanging hook.
Dim sum station
Our next stop was back in the basement kitchen at the dim sum station. This as Bonnie explained is the heart of the operation and we were honoured to be being taught by one of the best in the business, restaurant owner and Bonnie’s dad, Harry Yeung.
Harry started by showing us how to make the ‘pastry’ circles needed to create the famous Har Gow dumplings and boy did he make it look easy. My attempt at replicating it was feeble although others in the group had a pretty good bash at it.
I came into my own when it came to putting the actual dumplings together though. I created a unique style of pleating that even Harry had to concede was “not bad” (I took that as high praise from the master).
Next on the menu were spring rolls – the trick is a double layer of pastry to stop the filling leaking and also make that über crispy crunch that makes them so yummy. Most of us found these pretty easy and before long we had a cracking production line going.
We also had a go at making a yummy beef dumpling seasoned with coriander and citrus zest before turning our hand to another Cantonese staple Siu Mai.
All the while we were creating our masterpieces Bonnie was explaining to us how to tell quality dim sum from the second rate, possibly mass produced stuff and also giving us ideas for creative fillings we could use at home and sharing with us where to get the ingredients from (thankfully the pastry for all except the Har gow is pre prepared and can be bought from the supermarket.)
After a quick snack break where we got to eat our handmade spring rolls we headed off to the opposite side of the kitchen and the pièce de résistance – the wok cooking area.
Now, I’ve seen Chinese chefs throwing around food over a huge flame before but these wok stations were something else. The woks were huge and the flames were literally furnace like with the noise making it tough to hear at times.
We were shown how to make two dishes, one with beef and one with rice before being paired up to make one of the dishes ourselves.
I chose to take a supervisory role in my partnership and looked on as my partner in crime was patiently shown what to add and when, how to toss the food and then encouraged to create a huge wok of flame much to the amusement of the other chefs at the wok stations.
Everyone agreed that this was a pretty amazing experience – we were in a working restaurant kitchen, with real chefs making genuine Cantonese cuisine.
The final part of the course involved taking a seat in the restaurant and being served the food we’d so lovingly prepared (the duck was a case of ‘here’s one they prepared earlier’ as it’s a 24 hour process to get that gorgeous shine on the meat that we all know).
And you know what, the food wasn’t bad. It didn’t look exactly like the ones the chef prepared but it tasted great and pretty soon all the plates were empty.
I loved this experience. It was so much more than a cookery course, it was a true immersion into Cantonese cuisine and culture and I was just sorry it had to end.
Five stars from me!
Photographs: McAvoy Photography (images embedded in the text), Sara Perry (images in slide show).
Address: 34 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 4JY
Tel: 0161 236 2200 Fax: 0161 236 5934
Other articles about Yang Sing: