Expats Learn to Cook Street Food and Draw a Crowd

As a Diplomatic military “trailing spouse” living in China, I cannot work outside of our embassy without forfeiting my diplomatic status.  Therefor, knowing the repercussions of living in a precarious situation such as that, I do not work locally, and have to fill my time with other activities.

I stay busy with attaché events and receptions and other obligations for Horatio’s job, and I am also working on graduate studies to further my teacher education.  Although both of those take a lot of time, they still leave time for other activities.  So, when a friend proposed a cooking class to learn to cook Chinese street food, although cooking is not one of my usual choice of leisure activities, I decided to try something out of my comfort zone.

The Hutong is a cooking school located in an actual Hutong (a traditional Chinese residence area through narrow alleyways and lanes) in downtown Beijing.  Nine of us from the US, Canada, and Italy drove downtown in two vehicles (this is important to a later part of the story.)  Traffic was pretty clear, but it took about an hour to get to the area and another ten minutes to meander through the lanes to find the school.  Of course, this wouldn’t be a day in China without something taking an unexpected turn.


Class was taught in English, so that made things pretty straightforward.  We chopped everything by dividing the work between us, and we tasted all of the various spices and sauces.  We made our own spiced oil for cooking, and prepared three dishes: dan dan noodles, a summer salad with cucumbers and mung bean tofu, and jian bing (savory crepe-like pancake with vegetables and egg).




Jian Bing is typically made by street vendors and in homes.  The pancake is made with two types of flour and water, then, as it cooks, you add an egg, green onions, chili sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame seeds.  Then you put a fried wonton in the middle, fold the pancake up and over it and it is ready to eat!

The class was three hours long and we enjoyed everything we prepared.


After class, we meandered back through the alleyways to the street where we had parked our cars and lo and behold, one of the cars’ batteries was dead.  So, what do nine laowai (foreigners) do?  We fix it ourselves.  Luckily, one the ladies had jumper cables, so with a local audience marveling at the spectacle, we got the car started and made it home safely.


Just another day of expat life in China.

About Commander in Chief At home

Erin is a military spouse and, sometimes temporarily single mom to 4 boys. She's a writer, editor, teacher, and (Autism) mom.
This entry was posted in Living abroad, military family and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Expats Learn to Cook Street Food and Draw a Crowd

  1. Louise Rovak says:

    You are an amazing woman Love you!!!



  2. Richard Rovak says:

    Great post. By the way…check the spelling of “meaner” ….”meander.”




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