First and foremost, Shiyin Wang is a food lover. Wang was born in Shanghai but raised in the US, where he worked in solar energy and education nonprofits. When he lived in San Francisco, the emphasis on fresh and seasonal whole food ingredients made him passionate about healthy cooking. After moving to Shanghai, he started Kaixin Cooking to teach a healthier approach to Chinese food. Now entrenched in the Shanghai food community, Kaixin Cooking has appeared at Egg, FEAST, CieCAS and more.
What is your culinary background?
All of it is informal until recently. I studied cooking on my own since I was a kid, adding eggs to packaged ramen noodles or frying luncheon meat. Later on, my friends and I would do dinners where we’d each learn a dish from a different country. In 2016, I quit my job in New York City and started making baozi. I wanted to make the best baozi in New York – it was a bit delusional. I stood in my tiny kitchen every day kneading the dough, frying pork, taking notes in a spreadsheet. I did a few popups but realized it was time to live my dream of moving to Shanghai.
“I wanted to make the best baozi in New York”
How would you describe Kaixin Cooking?
Kaixin Cooking is a food education community. We learn to cook healthier food that people are happy to eat. We provide cooking classes, meals and popup events and catering. The focus is on healthier Chinese food, because we are in China, and because Chinese food draws on a rich range of flavors and ingredients that are tasty and provide a diversity of nutrition. Taste and enjoyment are critical to healthy food; without them, it’s not reasonable for most people to stick to a healthy diet.
Yuba salad (top) and fragrant eggplant (bottom) made at a Kaixin Cooking class. Images by Cristina Ng/That's
What is the format of the cooking classes?
Usually, we learn to cook three dishes, inspired by the season. Everybody cooks all the dishes with a partner. It has to be hands-on so people can engage all their senses – tasting and smelling of course, but also seeing the sear on a mushroom, or feeling the texture of ingredients, or learning how loud oil should sizzle. I try to break down the reasons behind techniques, timing and temperatures. At the end of class, we eat what we cooked – it’s one of my favorite parts. It’s when we make new friends and get to know each other’s stories.
What’s the most interesting story you’ve heard from a student?
I had a guy – nicest guy ever – who had to spend a week in Chinese jail because of getting into a fight after a night at the bar. He said everyone in jail had to do a task, so his task became teaching English to the other inmates.
What Chinese ingredients are most intimidating to students?
For people who are new to Chinese food, it’s the number of sauces at the grocery store. Why are there so many? Since most Chinese dishes are stir-fried, you can cheat and buy premixed sauce. Instead, I try to keep it simple – you need a soy sauce, a vinegar and a yellow wine, and you can cook a lot of things without relying too much on processed sauce.
Lily bulbs, peas, tea mushroom and shallot broth at a recent farm to table dinner. Image by Cristina Ng/That's
Chinese crown pear, goji berry, slightly salted caramel, almond. Image by Cristina Ng/That's
What do you have planned for December and January?
I’m really into local farms right now. I want to learn where our food comes from, the role of local eating to make food more sustainable and how to source great-tasting produce. To this end, I’m starting a monthly farm-to-table dinner series with this great Chongming Island farm called Vert City Farm. Their great vegetables inspire seasonal fusion menus, showing people that the best ingredients bring food to another level.
[Cover image courtesy of Kaixin Cooking]
Flyer courtesy of Kaixin Cooking