It is no secret that we here at Flying Fluskey LOVE dim sum. It is why we always take the time to stopover in Hong Kong when we go east. Imagine my delight when I found a place to learn the art of Chinese dim sum in my home town. For years I never quite got around to booking a spot on one of their courses, until now! I jumped for joy (no, really, I did) when I booked a lesson making dim sum at School of Wok!
School of Wok
Tucked between Covent Garden and The Strand, in London, is Europe’s only award-winning Asian cookery school. Not only that, but it has a killer pun for a name! We have been wandering past the shop front for years now, always mentally making a note to book a class. When we finally booked our spots, we were so pumped! Dim sum, a night out and a delicious meal (we hoped) all in one!
Jeremy Pang opened School of Wok in it’s current location in 2012. He comes from a family with a great tradition of food. Do you know Kowloon Bakery on Gerrard Street (London’s Chinatown)? Well that was opened by his Grandad. He later moved to Manchester and opened Ho’s Bakery (in Manchester’s Chinatown). We have eaten Youtiao in one, and BBQ pork buns in the other, and enjoyed them both immensely!
Why We Chose to Make Dim Sum at School of Wok
Well it had to be dim sum didn’t it?! They also have classes teaching food from Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and all regions of China. I would love to return and try out some more of their technical courses; “Understand the wok” or “Full-day seafood and fish” sound right up our street! Honestly, picking one class was tricky, and I would love to do lots more, but for a start, it couldn’t be anything but dim sum.
We were second to arrive at the shop which was all set up, ready for us. Each place had a chopping board, a huge cleaver (eek!) and our recipe booklet for the evening. We popped our coats and bags in the wardrobe and grabbed one of the School of Wok aprons. We were offered a drink and I opted for the white wine. It was fruity and not too dry for my taste.
Our chef introduced himself, Patrick was our main tutor and Matthew and Ellen were there to help out too. He talked a little about dim sum.
A Quick Lesson About Dim Sum
Dim sum originated along the Silk Road, traversed by merchants and monks. Tea houses sprung up along the route, and the weary travellers encouraged the tea house owners to start serving food with their drinks. All that the landlady had in the back was some flour, and a few little bits in the cupboard (that is why dim sum is small servings).
Did you know? Dim sum means “food from the heart”.
The obliging tea house owner whipped up a round of dumplings, the word spread and other tea houses caught on, hundreds of years later, you can find it everywhere! Although traditionally served in Hong Kong between morning and 17:00, we eat it all the time, and all over the world!
Want to learn more about our love of dim sum? Check out our article – Top Dim Sum Spots in Hong Kong.
And so to the lesson.
The BBQ Ribs
Given a large bowl, a few measuring spoons and a pair of gloves each, it was time to make a marinade for some small pork ribs. We learned that Hong Kong has adopted Heinz Ketchup as a main ingredient of BBQ sauces. I had been very confused seeing it with a tray full of soy sauce, rice vinegar and other more traditionally Asian ingredients. Turns out that the British took it over when they owned Hong Kong and it stuck!
We threw in some soy, vinegar, hoisin, sugar, ginger and garlic, along with the ketchup, and it created a delicious, shiny, BBQ sauce.
Did you know? Dark soy is soy sauce with caramel or molasses added?
Hands into the mixture, a quick rib massage and they were whisked away to go in the oven for later.
The Vegetable Spring Rolls
Time to learn some serious knife skills. At home we don’t have a sharp knife, let alone Chinese cleaver! I was a genuinely worried that i was going to chop off my fingerprints. That would be both a horrible injury and means my iPhone’s Touch ID wouldn’t work! Luckily, Patrick taught us the correct way hold the knife, how to hold the food we were chopping and how to slice effectively. I don’t think I’ve ever felt confident slicing things before, but this really helped.
Everything in a spring roll needs to be chopped into strips (tiny strips) so we got in a lot of knife practice. We chopped peppers, spring onion and Chinese cabbage, then added carrots, beansprouts and slices of omelette.
Finally it was time to wrap. We each took two wrappers (usually you would use one, but as we were all new to this, we were more likely to rip one layer). The coolest thing, or the weirdest, was how to seal them. We used banana slices as glue, rubbing them across the last section of wrapper. The starch and sugar bond the spring roll during frying.
The Zhaozi Dumplimgs
Now our knife skills were on point, it was time to level up. For the Zhaozi dumplings, everything had to diced up into teeny, tiny bits. We started with the garlic and ginger; base of any Asian dish. Then we tackled more Chinese chives, a bunch of coriander and some slimy Chinese mushrooms. We used dehydrated Chinese mushrooms that had been left in water overnight. These mushrooms absorb liquid and flavour and so are perfect for dumplings. For slicing, however, they felt like slugs…kind of gross. These veggies were mixed with pork mince and then we got to make dumplings. SO excited!
It was totally the dumplings that I’d been looking forward to. I managed the tortellini style one, and the tri-corner dumpling but the pleated version totally evaded me! I would love to spend three whole hours mastering dumpling folds.
Did you know? There are over 2000 different dumpling folds
The Glutenous Rice
This is one menu item that has always scared me. Having accidentally ordered several mysterious gelatinous blobs in China, I was worried about what this will be! Luckily, this lesson taught me that glutenous rice is just sticky rice. To create it, we used some Thai sticky rice, some tasty filling and lotus leaves.
You can use any filling you want, just lay some rice out, add some filling and top with more rice. Then it is time to rap it all up like a yummy birthday present. Steaming the rice in a lotus leaf infuses the rice with the flavour of the leaf and the juice of the filling. We used a chicken dish prepared by Patrick earlier in the day and slices of lap cheong (Chinese cured pork sausage). I couldn’t resist nibbling on some and realised that it is the meat sold by every shop near Macau’s main square.
After two and half hours of chopping, wrapping, seasoning and sneaky tastings, it was finally time try what we had made. The dishes were brought to the table and we all sat around, slightly too polite to dig in (the way you do when you eat with people you’ve only just met). “Right”, I thought, “chopsticks in!” I grabbed a dumpling and dinner began in earnest.
I loved the ribs! If the class had been longer, we could have cooked them lower and slower, giving the sauce more time to caramelise and the meat to get super soft. I will give it a go at home and see how it goes.
The spring rolls were crispy and delicious! It really made me appreciate how much work goes into these little rolls, and how much better freshly made ones are than the mushy fillings of the frozen supermarket kind. The veggies still had a little bite to them and I could taste them properly. It stayed hot for the whole ten minutes I took to eat it…Cornish pasties, eat your heart out!
The dumplings tasted great but I thought that the dough was a little thick. If I make them at home, I think I’d roll it out a little bit, especially because I like to steam my dim sum.
- Fancy making dim sum at School of Wok, or anything else for that matter? Read more about School of Wok, or book one of their courses on the School of Wok Website.
- Drinks are included through out your lesson, including wine and beer. I found that the wine mixed with the lychee and pomegranate spritz was super yummy!
- Don’t be worried if you aren’t a confident cook, during our three hour lesson we just did prep. They did all the heating for us…no burnt spring rolls for dinner.
- Do you know someone that would like this experience? School of Wok have gift vouchers for sale.
We were hosted by School of Wok but I really loved our experience and fully plan to return in the future. All opinions are my own.