Home no like that,” Then Kok Leong says as he picks up the huge wok in which he’s stir-frying noodles with vegetables. Flames leap from the cooking range as the Chinese chef at the Four Seasons hotel in Mumbai flips the noodles expertly in the wok; when he places it back on the stove, the flames cower under the iron vessel. Leong communicates using his limited knowledge of English and a big smile—he doesn’t want me to try this potentially dangerous tossing technique at home.
Wok it out: (top to bottom) Leong plans to teach mainly vegetarian dishes; hand-cut noodles; the final dish. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Leong will conduct a cooking class (it's more like a live demonstration of one dish) as part of the hotel’s celebrations for Chinese New Year on 26 January, and I’m here for a sneak peak. On the menu of our one-on-one class is just one dish—home-made spinach noodles. Leong wants to keep his cooking class simple so that the recipes are easy to make at home. This recipe is just that—deep-fried noodles stir-fried with French beans and bell peppers, in oyster sauce. The best part (and potentially the trickiest) is that he’s making the noodles from scratch.
Leong prepares the dough with flour, spinach juice and olive oil. After kneading it, he flattens it with a rolling pin into a large, rectangular chapati, folds it several times lengthwise and brings out a chopping knife. Then at a speed of what appears to be 50 slices per second to my fascinated eye, he starts chopping the dough and opens it out into fine, long strands, which will be boiled to make noodles. He makes it seem too easy and I can’t resist giving it a try. At first he is scared to hand me the large knife, but agrees when I insist. I chop at one-tenth his speed and produce noodles four times thicker. He smiles and sweetly says that noodles of any size can be eaten.
The noodles are boiled in hot water and then dunked in cold water for good texture. The chef lights up the large cooking range and controls the flame knob with his knee, while simultaneously holding the wok handle in one hand and pouring water from a ladle with the other. All this multitasking wholesomely me of a drummer. As healthy as the dough looked, with spinach juice and olive oil, the noodles are to be deep-fried for this dish. As the noodles are being fried, chef Leong points to the bubbles in the oil and says the bubbles indicate that there’s moisture in the noodles and when the bubbles subside, the noodles will be ready.
This is the year of the ox, according to the Chinese calendar, which the chef explains is a year for working hard and reaping the benefits. Leong has chopped and readied French beans and red, green and yellow bell peppers for the dish since these ingredients are easily available and “you don’t (need to) import (to) cook at home”. He adds oyster sauce to the mix, does his impressive wok-stirring and the dish is ready.
“In Chinese cooking, first see, then smell and then taste,” chef Leong tells me, sprinkling white and black sesame seeds on the dish, and decorating it with coriander leaves and red chilli juliennes. The dish is full of colour and the smell tempting. The soft, mild noodles provide a perfect taste to the crunchiness of the vegetables. The dish came out tops.
The cooking classes will be held on 27 and 28 January, from 11.30am to 2pm, for Rs800, inclusive of a lunch buffet. On 25 and 26 January, enjoy a traditional brunch, while a troupe performs a lion dance, from noon onwards, for Rs2,100 plus taxes. And 25-31 January, enjoy a special Prosperity Menu, for Rs1,800 plus taxes; both at San Qi, Four Seasons Hotel, Worli, Mumbai. Call 022-24818333.
Stir-fried spinach noodles
For the spinach dough
500g wheat flour
50ml olive oil
Mix water and spinach in a blender. Take 300g of the juice and olive oil and add to the flour. Knead into a dough. Roll out the dough and slice into noodles (thin or thick, according to your preference). Boil water and keep another bowl of cold/ice water ready. Add the noodles for 5 seconds to the boiling water, then place in cold water for 10 seconds and repeat. Finally, deep-fry the noodles at 70-80 degrees Celsius.
For the sauce
20ml vegetarian oyster sauce
15ml soy sauce
10ml sesame oil
Mix all the above ingredients together in a big bowl.
For the final dish
150g juliennes of capsicum (yellow, red and green, 50g, each)
50g juliennes of French beans
10ml cooking oil
Pour oil in a wok, add French beans and fry for about 10 seconds. Add capsicum and cook for 10 seconds. Add the water to the wok and the deep-fried noodles and keep mixing until the water evaporates. Top with black and white sesame seeds, coriander leaves and red chillies.