Growing up, the only Asian flavors introduced to my palate were those delivered out of a carton from my local Chinese take-out restaurant — beef and broccoli and fried rice. Moving to New York City and trying a variety of different cuisine really opened my eyes to the fact that the world has a lot more to offer. Since I love trying new things I was excited to see that ICE offers a Sichuan Spice recreational cooking class!

That was until I realized most Sichuan food is incredibly spicy. I am not a big fan of spicy food and somehow missed the fact that “spice” was in the name of the class. Oops! Luckily, I was not alone; one of my cooking partners was also in the dark so we set out on this spicy culinary adventure together.

We soon learned that what actually adds spice to the dish is Sichuan peppercorns, which are very different from black peppercorns. Rather than adding heat to food, Sichuan pepper has a tingling numbness affect on your tongue and is best prepared when lightly roasting the peppercorns then crushing them. The flavor is slightly lemony and can be quite addicting. That doesn’t sound so bad right? I tasted the pepper on its own and was pleasantly surprised. I could definitely handle some Sichuan pepper in my food.

Chef Instructor and ICE alum Diana Kuan also demonstrated various ways to fold both Sichuan wontons and dumplings. The trick behind folding Sichuan wontons versus other styles is that the wontons are folded in a way in which the tips cross each other as if “crossing or holding hands.” Also, rather than serving them in soup, Sichuan wontons are boiled then drizzled in chili oil. They were delish!

As unprepared as I was at the beginning of the night, I felt great walking out of the class knowing that not only could I wrap a mean wonton, but also could have an open mind about spicy food — very worldly indeed.

To see all of the international cuisine classes that ICE has to offer, check out our selection of recreational culinary classes.

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