Tag Archives: dumplings

Dim Sum Class at London Cookery School

Early this year, I came across a Time Out London discount for two people to attend a dim sum cooking class at London Cookery School*. Excited (who doesn’t love dim sum?), F and I jumped at the opportunity. Neither one of us had ever done a cooking class before, despite (or maybe because of) how much we both enjoy cooking. But dim sum is not something either of us would have attempted to make at home without some prior knowledge, so the class was the perfect opportunity for us to learn some new cooking techniques. By chance, we ended up booking the class on our first wedding anniversary — what better way to celebrate than that? (And how have we already been married a year?!)

Our dim sum class taught us how to make three of the most popular steamed dumplings that might grace a dim sum table:

  • Har Gow  蝦餃 (crystal prawn dumplings)
  • Chiu Chow Fun Gwor  潮州粉果 (chiu chow steamed dumplings)
  • Sui Mai  燒賣 (open top steamed pork and prawn dumplings)

I won’t share the recipes, as you should probably do the class to learn how to make the dumplings, but I’ll provide some pictures and commentary/observations on the class and techniques that we learned.

First up, tea (yum cha): the instructor Will explained that tea is an integral part of the dim sum experience. In Hong Kong and southern China, people will often say, “Do you want to go for some yum cha?”, meaning “Let’s go have dim sum (but of course there will also be tea).” The first page of our class booklet included explanations of some common teas (wulong/oolong was served during our class) as well as some key dim sum etiquette:

Once everyone had washed hands and poured tea, the class got going. We started by making three different fillings for our dumplings: a prawn-based mix for the har gow; a pork-based combination for the chiu chow fun gwor; and a pork-and-prawn mixture for the sui mai. Here are some things we learned while making the fillings:

  • Corn flour (cornstarch, to any Americans reading this) is used as a binding agent.
  • It’s best to use fattier minced pork (~20%) for dumplings.
  • Baking powder is often added to Chinese meat dishes as it gives the meat a lighter, springier feel and helps tenderize the meat, too.
  • Salted radish adds a depth of flavor (umami, if you will).

Fillings at the ready!

Next, we prepared the dough for the har gow and chiu chow fun gwor. This was quite fun and similar to making chapati dough: add hot water to starchy mixture, bring it loosely together, then let it sit and hydrate for a few minutes before the final kneading and rolling. The dumpling dough did require a couple of specialty ingredients like wheat starch (regular flour won’t cut it) and tapioca flour, but overall the technique wasn’t too difficult and the dough turned out a beautiful alabaster white with a smooth, silky feel.

Will demonstrated how to roll, cut, stuff, and fold the dough into dumplings. The har gow were difficult, as it took some dexterity to make the neat pleats for the classic shape. You can see that my first couple of attempts (top of the picture below) were not successful, but it got easier with practice. The chiu chow fun gwor were easier to form into a simple crescent shape.

The first batch of dumplings then went into the steamer while we formed the sui mai (with pre-made dough, as it’s a trickier dough to make and get thin enough). Those went into the steamer, too, and we were ready to eat!

The class lasted about three hours, and it was a great experience to learn how to make an entirely new sort of cuisine. If you’ve never done a cooking class before, I’d recommend it. Take a friend/partner along and get cooking!

*All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way for this post. It was just so enjoyable that I couldn’t help sharing with you, dear readers!


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Recipe: Chicken & Dumplings

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Oh man is this good comfort food. On a Friday night after a long week with a cold, this was just what I was hoping for: warm, wholesome stew topped with fluffy-chewy dumplings. F gave the chicken and dumplings a “this is really good” rating and has already requested that I make the dish again, just a few weeks later.

Chicken and dumplings is (are?) actually pretty healthy for comfort food. Veggies, chicken, and stock make up the stew part, and dumplings are just delicious — I don’t really care what’s in them. I was inspired to try my hand at this dish when I remembered that one of my housemates from senior year of college would sometimes make chicken and dumplings. It didn’t seem that difficult (it’s not) and doesn’t require any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients — you probably have almost all of them in your house already.

Chicken & Dumplings (adapted from Simply Recipes; serves 4-6)

Ingredients

  • Chicken & Vegetables:
    • 3 chicken thighs OR boneless skinless chicken breasts
    • 3 tsp butter or olive oil, or a combination of both
    • to taste: salt & pepper
    • 4-6 cups chicken stock
    • 1/4 celery root, chopped finely OR 2-3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2″ pieces
    • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
    • 2 onions, roughly chopped
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1-2 tsp thyme (fresh or dried)
    • 1.25 cups frozen peas, thawed
    • 1/4 – 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • Dumplings:
    • 2 cups all-purpose or cake flour (I used AP, but Simply Recipes says cake flour makes fluffier dumplings)
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 3/4 tsp salt
    • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
    • 3/4 – 1 cup milk
    • optional: 1/4 cup minced fresh chives

Procedure

  • In a medium pot, heat the chicken stock to a gentle simmer.
  • In a large pot, heat the butter/olive oil over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle it with some salt, then brown the chicken pieces in the pot on both sides (start them skin-down, if using thighs). Remove the chicken from the pot and turn the heat off.
  • Get rid of the chicken skins and pop the chicken into the simmering stock. Cook for ~20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. When it is ready, take the chicken out of the stock and set aside until cool enough to shred into pieces.
  • Moving back to the large pot, turn the heat on to medium-high. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and thyme. Sauté the vegetables until they’re soft, 4-5 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock by ladleful to the flour-vegetable mixture, stirring well after each addition. The broth should eventually come together nicely. Add the chicken meat, peas, and parsley to the pot. Turn up the heat and let simmer while you make the dumplings.
  • While the stew simmers, make dumplings: whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the chopped herbs, if using. Pour in the melted butter and milk, then mix with a wooden spoon until everything just comes together (don’t over-mix).
  • Drop large spoonfuls of dumpling dough into the stew (they’ll float on top). Cover the pot and simmer until the dumplings are cooked through, ~15 minutes (do not uncover the pot during this time!).

Enjoy!