Learning How to Make Dumplings in New Zealand

Learning How to Make Dumplings in New Zealand

After all my posts on New Zealand, it’s fair to say I think it’s an awesome place. I’ll probably never stop talking about it!

So really you shouldn’t be surprised that I’m writing, yet again, about New Zealand.

But it might surprise you that I took Asian cooking classes in a non-Asian country.

 

Learning the Local Cuisine

When I travel, I try to learn the cuisine of whatever place I’m in. In Morocco, I took a baking class. In Serbia, my aunt let me shadow every meal she made. But in New Zealand, I didn’t learn to make Kiwi food.

Why?

Because cooking classes in New Zealand aren’t about that kind of food.

There seems to be an assumption that we were all lucky enough to grow up with meat pies, clam bakes and pavlova. If you’re taking a cooking class, you want to expand your abilities.

I did learn to make some Kiwi dishes while living in New Zealand. But I learned most of them from friends at work. They even gave me an Edmond’s cookbook so I can continue to learn now that I’m halfway around the world.

 

Cooking Classes in New Zealand

In New Zealand, cooking classes have three themes: desserts, fresh fish and Asian food.

I already know how to make too many desserts (ask my office in New Zealand and they’ll agree. I brought in some sort of sweet treat every Monday!). While I love fresh fish, those classes often had no recipes or were all about Asian food anyway.

So of course I chose Asian cooking classes!

 

A Study in Asian Food

Asian cuisines have some of my favourite meals: sticky rice (not a meal, but I will gladly make it one), peanut chicken, dumplings, sushi, Thai and Indian curries, tempura and anything with udon noodles.

I would gladly live off of Asian food. But I had no idea how to make any of it.

Back home, Asian food is meant to be ordered in or eaten at a restaurant. Or at least that’s what I assumed. I’d never seen anyone who wasn’t Asian themselves cook proper Asian dishes.

New Zealand helped me fall back in love with Asian take away. After years of eating at cheap restaurants in Nova Scotia (definitely not the place to be refining your Asian cuisine), I’d forgotten how good real Asian food could be.

Or maybe I’d never known.

The places we ate growing up were definitely Americanized versions of traditional cuisine.

Since most of it was fried, I assumed you wouldn’t be able to make it at home. Unless, like my dad and sister (for some insane reason), you own a deep fryer.

It wasn’t until I was constantly hunting for new ramen or katsu that I began to want to eat this way all the time.

So Asian cooking classes seemed perfect!

 

Sachie’s Kitchen

I found Sachie’s Kitchen on a top ten list of cooking classes in Auckland. It had the most variety of classes, flexible dates and reasonable prices.

The only problem was choosing a class.

Sachie’s Kitchen has classes from various Asian cultures: Thai, Malaysian, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese. Some cultures even have multiple classes with different dishes to learn.

I spent a week debating classes, drooling over the potential menus and checking my meagre savings.

In the end, I opted to start with a Japanese class. The time was convenient. I wasn’t even sure I liked the food on offer, but I figured I’d get the chance to find out by the end, so why not?

 

How the Classes Work

Sachie’s classes are 2.5 hours long and cost $95 NZD. For that price you learn how to make a starter or side, main and dessert. Some classes, like the dim sum lesson, cost more because they take longer.

At the end of the class, you leave with the recipes for everything you made (in serving sizes for 2 people) and any leftovers you don’t finish. They offer plastic containers but I quickly learned it’s better to bring your own as their’s dent easily.

The facilities are brilliant. Each pair gets their own induction cooktop, oven, fridge and counter space with their own utensils. There’s no scrambling over people for items or ingredients in this kitchen.

Sachie’s even matches your apron colour to your partner.

If, like me, you’re working solo, they will assign you a partner. If there’s an odd number, the instructor will help you with your dishes.

The instructor teaches in two sections: once at the beginning of the meal and once halfway through. You end up cooking in two sections this way, which breaks down the recipes into easy to follow chunks. It also helpfully allows marinating or steaming time for certain dishes.

If you forget a step or make a mistake, don’t worry! The instructor and the assistant are there to help you. They repeatedly walk the room to check on everyone.

It’s the sort of space that makes an amateur or a skilled chef feel comfortable. You can work at your own pace. There’s guidance available. The materials are easy to use. And then you get to eat delicious food at the end!

 

My Classes with Sachie’s Kitchen

During my time in New Zealand, I took three classes at Sachie’s Kitchen.

Class 1

I took the “Taste of Japan 3: Secret of Umami” class first. It ran at 9:30am on a Saturday, which is a brilliant time in my opinion. We ended the class around lunch time, devoured most of our cooking and then headed up the street to the french market to keep on eating.

That course was a great intro to the classes. I learned how to make teriyaki chicken, katsu shrimp and an amazing sesame dressing for a salad. I’ve made the chicken at least every three weeks since doing the class.

Helpfully, that meal required only a few ingredients. I had none of them at the time (who owns cooking sake?), but was happy to buy them for how amazing it ended up tasting.

 

Class 2

I went back to Sachie’s after loving that first course.

Cooking classes had become another great solo activity for me. I had tried to convince some friends from work to join me, but their schedules didn’t fit. But while you’re cooking you don’t really care if you’re with friends or on your own. In fact, I preferred it on my third time at Sachie’s when I was left to my own devices.

I signed up for a Malaysian cooking class after returning from Singapore and feeling like I hadn’t eaten enough Malaysian food while I was there. I chose the “Kuala Lumpur (‘KL’) Favourites” class specifically because it had peanut chicken satay on the menu.

While the class was delightful, it’s the only one with items I would probably never make again. The seafood laksa, peanut satay and mango sago were all delicious. But the recipes were so long!

The list of obscure vegetables, spices and wet ingredients I would need to hunt down to remake that laska paste or the peanut sauce (especially for how little of it actually goes in the recipe) made it moot.

At least I learned that I adore laksa and how to make a cheater’s mango sorbet!

 

Class 3

And now we get to the dumplings!

My final class at Sachie’s (which still makes me sort of tear-y) was their “Yum Cha” class.

I had seen this class advertised for a while, but felt ridiculous signing up. When was I ever going to make dim sum again? Surely it’d all be insanely complicated. If laska had complicated ingredients, what nightmare recipe would I need for har gow or siu mai?

My worries were completely unfounded.

I’ve made the dumplings twice since. The ingredients were easy to find (in New Zealand anyway. In Toronto I had to go to an international food store). There weren’t 4,000 ingredients that I would only need a pinch of.

And they tasted so good!

 

Making Dumplings in New Zealand

There’s something therapeutic about cooking. Maybe it’s the aggression of chopping or the rhythm of stirring or the pleasant steam off a pot.

Dumplings combine all of that with the pleasant kneading and shaping of baking.

It does seem odd, looking back, that the thing I’m most glad to have learned in New Zealand was how to make dumplings.

I learned other things in that class, like oyster sauce for broccolini, fried spring rolls and a lotus leaf rice wrap. I’ve made them all again, but they don’t matter to me as much as the dumplings.

Maybe it’s because they make me want to travel to Asia. Or maybe because there’s a fair amount of care put into making them. Maybe it’s just because they’re one thing I can cook that my mom can’t.

I can’t be sure.

But at least it’s been a great new “interesting fact” for ice breakers!

 

Final Thoughts on Dumplings

Cooking is such a wonderful thing to learn, whether or not you’re travelling. I didn’t really start figuring out how to cook nice things until I was working, but then I took off to Europe.

Hostel kitchens and shared are not conducive to developing your inner chef.

I love letting my wanderlust inspire my food choices. It used to be limited to restaurants – oh I feel like going to India today? Let’s head to a curry house for supper! – but learning the recipes gives me the freedom to make them more often.

Recipes are a way better souvenir than a magnet.

If you’re travelling, even for a few days, try to find a new recipe. Take a cooking class. Go into a grocery store and look for free flyers with recipes. Google a country’s national dishes. Buy a cookbook. Ask someone you meet for a recipe.

I built a full cookbook out of recipes I gathered throughout Europe – some weren’t even from countries I went to. It’s the best souvenir to have because I can use it again. And every time I make those recipes I’ll be reminded of my trip.

Every time I make my dim sum dumplings, I’ll be reminded of happy times in New Zealand.

 



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