this cookery course was everything you could ask for; including a tour around china town, learning how to shop for and select the best ingredients, where to find kitchen tools and how to use them, knife and preparation skills and of course the best lesson ... on how to devour a chinese feast with a glug of specially paired wine.
the day lasted from 10am-4pm and began with a tour around london's china town. we learnt the two main streets, lisle street and gerrard street, are associated with a variety of chinese styles of cooking ranging from classic cantonese to spice infused szechuan. we headed to kowloon bakery for pork breakfast buns; a brioche style bun filled with pork, hoisin, mustard and tomato ketchup. it cost nev, our trusty tour guide and talented chef, £10 for around 7 pork buns and 3 custard buns. i'll definitely be returning!
our appetites for chinese food sufficiently wet, we continued the tour through to one of the supermarkets to learn about asian vegetables, spices, the best tofu for particular dishes, how they get crispy duck so crispy, the appropriate soy sauce for different dishes... the list was endless and i still keep finding myself saying "did you know you shouldn't heat up sesame oil in a wok?" and "we need to go to [insert dim sum restaurant/bakery/supermarket here] next time we're in london..."
next up was jen cafe for steamed dumplings galore. we had a mix of meat and veggie dumplings accompanied by jasmine, oolong, green teas and an abundance of soy sauce and chilli. this was a very basic setting with great food; we were assured by nev it's one of the best places for dumplings in china town and i believe him.
with (almost) full bellies, we arrived back to school of wok hq to find a few other faces had joined us for the cookery course in the afternoon. after a quick cuppa, our aprons were on, recipe cards out and some had their knives (scarily) poised.
on the menu was bbq spare ribs, pork jiaozi (also known as pot stickers or dumplings), vegetable spring rolls and steamed rice in lotus leaves.
first was the spare ribs; we got involved in three tables of six to measure out the ingredients and mix it all together. it was a really great format actually (i'd expected we'd make our own bits and pieces) as we worked as a team to create the various elements. for example, after a little knife demo from nev, i chopped the coriander whilst maybe someone else would be slicing carrots or ginger.
next we went onto my favourite part and something i've always wanted to make... jiaozi! i'm more familiar with them as gyoza in japanese cuisine; and i'm told they are made with the same circular flour dim sum wrappers. it was really up to us what quantity of flavours we wanted to use but luckily we all loved coriander, spring onion and pork so lots of that went in.
i really can't wait to get hold of some of the wrappers and have a go at home now i know (though am not very fast!) how to form the pleating that characterises their shape. here is my efforts in pictures. can you spot "the angry frog" technique?
yippee - success! we then pretty much continued to make them until nev said stop and these went on to be deep fried in the kitchen ready for the upcoming feast. it is said that the better your pleats the more lucky you will be - think i've got some work to do. and especially puts the vegetable won tons i made at home to shame.
next it was vegetable spring roll time. think red pepper, bean sprouts, coriander, omelette and a dash of sesame oil.
lastly we put together sticky rice, chinese sausage, chicken thigh and veg in a lotus leaf to be steamed in a bamboo steamer. the lotus leaf really added an earthy flavour to the rice and was a great way to add moisture to the dish. the marinated aubergine you can see is a veggie alternative to the bbq spare ribs - school of wok were great for emailing us ahead to ask about dietary requirement for the day.
now it was time to turn our work benches into a long dining table and enjoy our dim sum delicacies over a glass of red or white. i can see why this is like the chinese answer to a sunday roast as it was such a lovely social meal which felt a little like what i imagine a supper club to be like.
in all, it was a brilliant experience! it was great to spend time with other foodies who all wanted to make, learn and chat about dim sum, chinese and south east asian food. i couldn't recommend a cookery class enough for a birthday present, a couples activity, a teambuilding day or maybe just something new to try out on your own...
have you been to any cookery schools? i'd love to hear about them. i once went on a cake pop decorating course with my mum which was great fun. i think i'd like to go on a pasta making one next!
note: i was invited along to school of wok to review the course but all honest opinions are my own.