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China: The Hutong Cooking School

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Hello fellow foodies!

As you may have noticed by now, I love to eat and what better way to get to know a new culture than through the local dishes?

On this trip to Asia, I got hooked on cooking classes and was able to book a class in Japan and in China.

I am not going to lie, my pre-assumption of Chinese cuisine was not good. From everything you hear in the media about dog meat and other less savory ingredients being consumed in Asia, it’s easy to be concerned. There are also stories from friends that will make you think twice about ordering food at a new destination, like eating dumplings filled with cardboard. Yes one of my friends actually had that experience in China. So with all of that, I was preparing myself mentally for what was to come.

Thankfully, The Hutong Cooking School in Beijing set me straight and along the way introduced me to the wonderful cuisine of China. No, it is not even close to what you would get at your local Chinese restaurant, it’s 100 times better!

In fact, I loved it so much, I actually looked forward to trying new dishes for every meal after that. I even ventured into a street market and had what I can only describe as a Chinese taco/crepe from the cleanest food stall I have ever seen.

When I went back to Beijing on my last two days in China, I opted to take a second class in the Hutong Cooking School instead of sightseeing. That is how much I liked it. If you are a foodie or just want to learn a new dish, give this place a try!

Making Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)

I am sure at one point in your life, you’ve had dumplings. It is available in many cultures. However if you think you know what Chinese dumplings are supposed to taste like and you haven’t been to China, you are missing out. There is no comparison! I had not been a fan before, but after these, I am a convert. I crave it regularly and although most of the time I am too lazy to make them from scratch, I can close my eyes and remember what they taste like.

Ok, now my mouth is watering, but I digress.

So soup dumplings! These little pouches of heaven are so delicious and super easy to make. I can’t reveal the recipe from the Hutong Cooking School, but you can find many recipes on YouTube like this one or this one.

Basically, the dough is just flour and water. Can’t get any easier, can it? The trick here is to leave a little bump in the middle where the dough is thicker than at the sides so it won’t break and leak.

The big secret of the dumpling is the soup! I am sure you are wondering how on earth you put soup inside a dumpling. Well my friends, it’s actually genius! The soup is made ahead of time and refrigerated to congeal. Some recipes use clear gelatin to make it firm up, others just use pork skin. It doesn’t sound appetizing, but let me tell you, it’s the best thing ever!

Once it’s in a firm state, you couple that with a meat base filling, close the little dough pouches and steam those babies. Once steamed, the soup goes back to its liquid form and you have a party in your mouth!!!

At the Hutong Cooking School we dipped those babies in a vinegar base sauce and paired it with a warm, spicy cucumber salad, which is another of one of my favorites.

Besides learning how to cook a simple, yet wonderful dish, you meet some pretty cool people that are either expats or traveling. I loved this class and the group we had, but of course, I loved these dumplings the most!

Have you had soup dumplings before? What do you think of them?

If you liked reading about this cooking class at the Hutong cooking school and want to learn about more things to do in China, check out these travel guides:

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