To prepare their son for college in
"I knew nothing about cooking before going abroad last year," said Mo, now a freshman at
More than 270,000 Chinese young adults studied in the
Wang Jingyuan, a graduate studying public affairs at
"But nothing I eat here now is healthy or delicious except for the food I prepare myself," said Wang, who’s now around 7kg heavier.
"The Chinese dishes sold on the food trucks right off campus have too much monosodium glutamate," said Zhang Han, a Columbia University graduate student studying management science and engineering. "I think those vendors use so many condiments to flavor the food that the freshness of ingredients doesn’t matter anymore."
Hospitality professionals say that preparing authentic Chinese cuisine is time consuming and that there's a trade-off between taste and convenience.
"Chinese cooking values craftsmanship and the mastering of uncertain factors like knife skills and heat control, while the Western relies more on the kitchenware," said
Mo is among about 40 culinarily challenged Chinese students headed abroad who paid US$300 for a 10-day cooking course in August, according to Chen Li, director of admissions at
"It was so cute the way those students used the kitchen knife when they first started," said Chen.
Each afternoon, they watched an instructor prepare three home-style Chinese dishes. Among the items to be mastered were sauteed shredded pork with sweet fermented flour paste, stir-fried eggs with tomatoes, and dumplings. Morning classes were called "showtime" - where Mo and the others would try the dishes they had seen cooked the previous day.
For a kitchen newbie such as Mo, the array of utensils and condiments can seem overwhelming. The instructor, in an all-white chef’s uniform, peppered Mo with tips on techniques.
Once in the
Some, too, adjust their tastes to their new home.
"I started to eat avocado and more salad when I came to
Many American students studying in
"I love baozi and fried rice noodles with eggs and beef. And I have Chinese food all the time at the cafeterias on campus even though we have a public kitchen in our dorm building," said Joel Powell, 20, a junior at California Baptist University who spent two months at Beijing Language and Culture University this summer.
But for many young Chinese expats in the US - some of whom will remain for years - preparing authentic Chinese food in the kitchen is more than just about satisfying their palates.
"I would help my dad and mom in the kitchen when I was only eight," said Hou Xiaoxuan, a graduate student in public policy analysis at the