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Chopsticks & Beyond Jumps into Zhengzhou

CRIENGLISH.com | Updated: 2014-11-13 14:49

Cooking and the enjoyment of food are things that go beyond political and cultural borders. With its latest competition, Chopsticks & Beyond keeps challenges foreigners living in China to put their own spin on local dishes and cuisines. This past Friday, Zhengzhou People's Broadcasting Station invited the Chopsticks & Beyond team to Zhengzhou for a special episode.

The scope of the project was bigger than ever, with a full 10 contestants who'd try to prepare liyubeimian (carp with noodles in sweet and sour sauce). The contestants were coming from Beijing and Zhengzhou, though their home countries ranged from the Czech Republic to Zambia.

The contestants arrived at the beautiful A Wu Restaurant, where master chef Zhang Hongyue gave them a somewhat intimidating lesson about how to prepare liyubeimian. First he deftly scored the carp's flesh so that it could open up flower-like. Then he prepared the noodles, deftly swinging the dough round then stretching it out over and over again, multiplying the strands of noodles until they became so fine that they resembled strands of hair. To prove their thinness, Chef Zhang dipped a few strands into water where they dissolved instantaneously. Then (why not?) he lit the noodles on fire to exacerbate the point.

Participants drew lots to see who their partners would be, and some people found themselves dealing with different problems: possibly disparate ideas about how to incorporate their home country into a Chinese recipe, possibly language barriers.

Host Lucy Luan (from CRI's Easy Cafe) said the word and the five teams threw themselves into their tasks. The fish were prepared without much trouble, but all groups found themselves struggling with the noodles, failing to get the dough to stretch without snapping. Chef Zhang advised teams that their dough was too dry. Water was added, but the problems persisted until people either found a new technique to make some thing noodle-shaped, or sadly scrapped noodles from their final dish. Nick Archibald swapped in some potatoes as a replacement, reasoning that in England potatoes and fish are the classic match.

When the time was announced and 17 minutes had already passed, the cooks responded with disbelief. "Did you just say seventeen minutes?" After the delays all teams were feeling the pressure and wasted no time sprinting into the adjacent kitchen to fry their fish. If anyone hadn't realized that working in a professional kitchen can be a manic and claustrophobic environment, they knew now. The tasks of finding some beer to add to a sauce or even a simple spoon sometimes proved to be less than straightforward.

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