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Israeli chefs learn to cook Chinese cuisine during a cooking class at
Tadmor Hotelier School in Herzliya, Israel, on June 18, 2018.
(Xinhua/Guo Yu)

JERUSALEM, July 6 (Xinhua) — In a hot and steamy kitchen in the coastal
Israeli city of Herzliya, a group of Israeli cooks huddled around Zhao
Bin, a prominent Chinese chef, who explained in detail how to make a
traditional Chinese dish: fried meatballs.

To cater to the Chinese guests, the hotel has changed its breakfast
menu, as well as the buffet, which is now featuring many typical Chinese
dishes daily.

He added that his ministry plans to have more Chinese cooking training
sessions for Israeli chefs, in order to offer as many types of Chinese
food as possible.

In 2015, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Israel increased by 142
percent from the previous year, followed by 41 percent rise in 2016.

The event, one of several masterclasses held in different cooking and
hotel schools in Israel, was organized by the Israeli Tourism Ministry
in an attempt to sustain the growing influx of Chinese tourists to the
Jewish state.

One of the biggest challenges in the Herzliya workshop turned out to be
the different flavors and spices used by Israeli and Chinese chefs.

“Chinese tourists are different from the tourists we are accustomed to
from Europe and the United States,” said Efrat Meir-Groman, director of
Vocational Training in Tourism at the Israeli Tourism Ministry.

Next month, there will be a further increase in direct weekly flights
between China and Israel, which could lead to a further rise in the
number of Chinese tourists.

“In the Chinese kitchen, everything is crunchy, you can still taste the
actual vegetable, not like in the Israeli kitchen where everything is
mixed,” said David Bril, a 64-year-old cook from a hotel in Netanya.

Still, the Israeli Tourism Ministry is looking to increase the number of
Chinese tourists to Israel.

“The most important issue is how to let the Israeli chefs know more
about China, especially the tastes of the Chinese,” he said.

The Chinese chefs also had to adapt to the religious restrictions which
characterize the Jewish kitchen. Kosher food has many requirements and
limitations that do not exist in Chinese cooking, such as the
prohibition of mixing meat and dairy products, or not eating seafood.

Following Zhao’s instructions, each cook was required to make the dish
on their own. Some made own subtle changes to the dish, while others
chose to stick to the original recipe, enthusiastically waiting for the
approval of Zhao.

“Israeli cooking techniques are relatively simple, while there are more
than 80 kinds of cooking techniques for Chinese food,” Zhao told Xinhua.

As the Israeli and Chinese kitchens are very different, so there is a
lot to learn for the Israeli chefs.

“They want their food. Their palate is more rigid in terms of opening up
to new tastes. Israelis love Chinese food, but they (the Chinese) are
very set on their food,” Pokoshevski told Xinhua as she shook her wok
with great expertise like a Chinese chef.

“Each region in China has a different population with different local
tastes and cooking ways. We will also pay attention to this,”
Meir-Groman said.

Romi Koral Pokoshevski, a 27-year-old cook who has been working at a
hotel in Tel Aviv for 11 years, said she has witnessed the increase of
Chinese tourists at the hotel in the past couple of years.

With the inauguration of three weekly flights between the Chinese city
of Guangzhou and Tel Aviv in August, there will be a total of 10 weekly
flights between the two countries.

With an aim to attract more Chinese tourists, Israel intends to cater to
their tastes, just to make them feel at home.

In addition to teaching classes, the Chinese chefs have toured major
attractions in the region, including the holy city of Jerusalem and the
Dead Sea, a hot destination for tourists.

“It is hard to cook with Chinese style in Israel if we cannot buy some
flavoring ingredients in the country,” Zhao said. “We will try to cook
Chinese dishes with raw materials and local ingredients in Israel.”

The potential for attracting more tourists from China, which is the top
source of tourists, is so huge that the Israeli government is taking
measures to cater to the specific needs of the Chinese tourists.

The Israeli tourist industry is well aware of the fact that Chinese
tourists stick very much to their own food, with little motivation to
taste local dishes.

Eager to show his Israeli students how the authentic dish should look
like, he sent one of them to get red food coloring. He quickly added
some drops to the simmering wok and the color changed instantly.

During the classes, the Israeli chefs were taught four different recipes
with the hopes of having them integrated into local hotel and restaurant
menus.

Data from the ministry shows the average Chinese tourist spends double
of an European tourist, making them a lucrative group for the Israeli
market.

“The colors, the tastes, the way food is served … everything is
different and special,” said Ofek Shabi Rubin, a 21-year-old cook from a
hotel in Tel Aviv.

Indeed, the past three years witnessed a sharp surge in the number of
Chinese tourists visiting Israel, according to Israeli Tourism Ministry
statistics. In 2017, a total of 113,800 Chinese tourists visited Israel.

“We noticed that when it comes to food, we have a disadvantage because
the Israeli food is very different from what they are used to,”
Meir-Groman said.

A total of 80 Israeli chefs and cooks have participated in the cooking
workshops that were conducted by renowned Chinese chefs like Zhao Bin.

When Zhao was making the sauce for sweet and sour sesame chicken, he
noticed that the Israeli tomato paste was not as red and concentrated as
the Chinese one.

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