Sometimes I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
Like when the bf whisks me off to Amsterdam for a weekend of charming canal walks and delicious ice cream. Or when we arrive, having checked the weather and prepared for rain, and instead we're greeted with cool breezes and warm sunshine and fluffy white clouds. Or when, as a thank-you, I book us in for a cooking class at a place I've never heard of, which just happens to be the only class I can find where the timing fits, and we end up cooking dim sum for 4 hours (and staying to eat and chat for another 1.5) in a gorgeous studio with a raucous, international crowd of students and a fabulous, young, Socratic teacher named Fong.
Luckiest girl in the world. For serious.
Dim sum is one of my favorite cuisines. Ever since my family moved to San Francisco when I was 10, and I was first introduced to the pick-and-mix style of dining which I can only describe as an indecisive spaz's dream, I've made it my mission in life to eat dim sum whenever it's offered. But I'd never even considered trying to make it. I mean, I'm a baker for a reason: you spend an hour or so putting things together, bung the mixture in the oven, and in another hour it's eating time! None of this make-the-dough-then-the-filling-then-steam-and-you've-got-1-of-35-dishes-ready stuff. No thanks, I'll happily pay for other people to do that work for me. But I'm so so so glad I didn't let my fear of a little hard work stop me from signing us up for this class, because boy howdy was it fun!
It was definitely hard work, though. I will say this: do not expect to make a full-on dim sum feast without a lot of time and effort. We made 3 dishes (baked pork buns, har gow (my fave), and siu mai) in this class, and we divided the prep work among the 11 of us, and it still took 4 hours to make everything! It was exhausting, but so worth it. And, to be fair, I think if the bf and I want to make dim sum in the future, we'll probably save ourselves a big chunk of time by buying the wrappers and just making the fillings... I know, that's probably blasphemy, especially as the hard work is supposed to be an integral part of the "touches of the heart" that dim sum represents... But I promise I love you just as much if I make you dim sum with cheating shortcuts. In fact, I probably love you more because I'm not all achy and grumpy from slaving away over your lunch.
Anyway, on to the photos, sub-par though they are. I didn't really want to lug my Canon to Amsterdam, given that I already have roughly 7,530,281 photos of that most gorgeous city and I was a wee bit apprehensive about getting pork and oyster sauce all over my brand new baby, so the pics were all taken with the bf's little point-n-shoot. Sorry, you'll just have to forgive the colors and light (really, you should be as appreciative as I was that the studio kitchen was in a lovely, well-lit corner room!) and focus on the subjects.
So here goes, a wee photographic sample of the best 4 hours and 100 Euros (for both of us) I've spent in years (there are more pics on Flickr and info about Dun Yong workshops here):
The bf is excited to get started on the baked pork buns!
As am I!
The first thing we all did was split into groups to make up our doughs/fillings. The bf and I made the pork buns. The bf got started on the dough while I attempted to 'finely dice' (easier said than done, with my limited knife skills) the char siu, a scrummy marinated pork that Fong had prepared for us already:
Meanwhile, the other teams were working on the har gow and the siu mai. When we were all finished with our fillings and our doughs, Fong showed us all how to put each one together. First, the pork buns:
Rolling out the edges of our little dough circles.
Filling and pinching.
Brushing the prepped buns with egg wash.
Om nom nom! Even if I do say so myself!
Next up were the siu mai. I don't have any pics of the wrapper-rolling-out-cutting frustrations, which is a damn shame, but just take it from me: this is one step where a cheat will spare you a heart attack. The other doughs weren't so tough, and were easy to work with once they'd been made, but these suckers were on my sh*t list from an early stage!
Once the wrappers were made, forming these guys was a cinch!
And the carrots were just the icing on top. Cuteness.
Fong, checking our work and keeping an eye on the enormous steamer!
Last, but definitely not least, we made my absolute favorite, har gow. These little shrimp dumplings steam up almost translucent, and when you first bite into them (besides burning the holy hell out of your mouth, if you're impatient like I am) you get a burst of sweet and salty juiciness that is damn near unrivaled. YUM.
The easy part of the wrapping...
The pleating was much tougher to get a handle on, although I had an easier time of it than the bf... it's all those years of girls' school uniform skirts.
Oh man, we scarfed those dumplings. I honestly don't think any one of us expected there to be leftovers, but amazingly there were! A few people took home boxes of unsteamed dumplings to make later, and Fong very kindly steamed up some of the remainders for the bf and me to take back to our B&B. I ate them later that night, even though I was full from dinner. I made it through all the har gow and a few siu mai before I had to stop for fear of actual belly explosion. It hurt so good.
So, moral of the story: always take opportunities to try to eat/make new foods. I almost guarantee (no money back) that you won't regret it. And if you find yourself in Amsterdam, definitely check out Fong's classes. It was one of the best things I've done on vacation in years. And that's the truth.