The only way to end an exhausting trip of adventure is to stuff your face with food. It’s true, I’ve tested this theory. Our overnight return from Xi’an left us wanting for some good, hot food. Thus we hungrily headed to our final activity: learning to cook traditional Chinese dumplings at a place called The Hutong.
Our lovely instructor Sophia greeted us with a smile and was a gracious hostess throughout the morning. Even though you can’t see her face above (Hey Lara!), we could really see her passion for cooking and her nostalgia for making dumplings on special occasions with her family as a child.
All good cooking classes begin with a trip to the local market to learn about the staples of the local diet and hunt for what’s in season. As far as markets go, this one wasn’t vastly different than many we have toured before. Still, it was unique, set amid the hutongs and ancient Chinese architecture while serving residents of a hugely populated city.
All the standard items were for sale: rice and grains, chiles, meats and seafood…
…lots of delicious looking produce, too. One of the major challenges to the obesity epidemic in the US is access to fresh produce like this in lower income and rural areas. It is amazing to me to find markets such as this in lower income countries and communities in Asia. If they can do it, can’t we figure it out?
If only Ulsan had so many fresh red onions. The things you miss as an expat.
The one stall at this market that I had not before seen in my travels was the handmade tofu vendor. I’m not a vegetarian by any means, but something about the looks of this fresh tofu makes me want to look up some recipes right away!
Strangely enough, the only purchases made at the market consisted of some yarn for crochet projects and some nuts for a snack. Soon enough we were back at the kitchen to roll up our sleeves and get cooking. And drink beer before noon.
I was really impressed with The Hutong – by far the most professional cooking class company I’ve come across. They are also an active cultural center, hosting university exchanges and other knowledge sharing. We purchased a huge cleaver and some “tea balls” from among the selection of many fun items for sale in the kitchen, and they supplied us with some really well-done folders with recipe information inside.
I was too busy filming and actually making dumplings to take too many photos of the actual cooking process. However, I bet everyone would agree that we had a blast making and eating our dumplings of various size, shape and cooking methods! I, for one, could stand to eat these far more often than a special occasion like Chinese (Lunar) New Year.
Finally, I’ve produced a halfway decent video! It was my first shot with the DSLR and it seemed to make all the difference! Maybe it will remind us how exactly to make the dumplings once we get up the nerve to try it at home. Dumpling party, anyone?