I was kindly invited to partake in a Dim Sum Cooking Class with Michelin trained chef Loretta Liu. The class is located in the up and coming foodie haven, ‘Clapham’ which was made apparent from all the delicious food vendors and restaurants around, including the local community food Venn Street Market which runs every Saturday comprising of small independent producers and farmers sourcing fresh and seasonal produce at a fair price.
Dim Sum is a style of Cantonese food that is traditionally prepared as small bite sized portions in a tapas style selection. Dim Sum is a popular fast trend that is merging among students and office workers on the go. This is due to the efficiency and ease in which you can make these delicious healthy canapés!
The class was located about a 15 minute walk away from Clapham Common station. The kitchen was clean with about 4 people per table and 5 working spaces where we could start our Cantonese creations! Loretta immediately put us at ease, welcoming us to the class and introducing us to the recipes for the day, which included; Jiazozhi dumplings, Sui Mai dumplings and Vietnamese Spring Rolls. All ingredients used throughout the class were fresh, with Loretta explaining the origin of the different flavours and the minutia techniques in mastering Asian cuisine.
Throughout the class I learnt the basics of Asian style cooking as Loretta carefully executed a perfect mixture of positive instruction, demonstration and group interaction throughout the workshop.
The first Dim Sum piece we made was Jiaozhi. Jiazozhi dumplings are a standard in most teahouses traditionally served with lavishing’s of tea. These dumplings are made from wheat flour, the dough’s high elasticity means that only a small proportion of dough is actually required in order to securely wrap around the fillings. I was amazed at how far my fist sized ball of dough could actually stretch; I had enough to create approximately 30 dumplings! The little starch used in the dumplings meant that the skin of the dough was able to absorb all the seasonings creating a dumpling that was light and full of flavour.
Next we made Sui Mai also known as Shumai which is most commonly filled with pork. However, the option to add mushrooms or any of other vegetables that takes your fancy can also be substituted for the meat as a vegetarian alternative. The dumplings were made using wonton wrappers which is a square wrapper of dough made from flour, egg, water and salt. The fillings are then sealed using a small amount of water in order to compress the sides together to create a crimped edge. Wontons are then boiled to create shiny steamed dumplings which can also be served in a soup.
The Vietnamese spring rolls look as good as they tasted. We used delicate rice paper that resembled doyleys that once dipped into water softened into mouldable wraps. Our selected ingredients consisted of a mixture of herbs and vegetables including: bean sprouts, salad, coriander and cucumber. These rolls are perfect in using up any leftover veg you have lying about in the fridge and make a delicious refreshing snack. The spring rolls are then made almost like a burrito folding in both ends, and wrapping the sides tightly around themselves to create an oblong shape. The rolls require no cooking time as are fully vegetarian and so can be eaten raw. A dipping sauce made from peanut butter and hoisin sauce made for a delicious blend of aromatic flavours that I would not normally try but complemented the light consistency of the rolls perfectly.
The class was finished with all the tables dining together over some jasmine tea and eating all our delicious Asian infused creations. The class had a convivial atmosphere throughout with Loretta being a personable and charismatic teacher. Loretta’s previous training stems from a wide background of schools including Raymond Blancs’ renowned ‘Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons’ school as well as a qualified Montessori teacher. Loretta’s previous work with children fundamentally inspired her to launch ‘Supercute Macaroons’. These delicate patisseries sport a range of colourful; florals, animals and patterns that are current bestsellers in Harvey Nicholes, Knitsbridge. Lorrita offers classes in the art of macaroon making which can also be bought here. Loretta’s culinary expertise has promoted her to launch her very own recipe cookbook entitled ‘Supercute Macaroons’, which can also be accessed here.
As a Dim Sum cooking novice. I have to say what I was most surprised at was first the amount of ingredients overall used, the ease of preparation and the total amount of time the food took to cook, as well as how filling all the dishes were.
Overall, this experience is perfect in learning transferable cooking skills that you can impress your other half or friends with at your next dining experience bringing the exotic oriental flavours of South East Asia into your very own home! Dim Sum literally translates to touching the heart which I think is the perfect term to describe this unique culinary art that I will definitely be recreating in the future!
Popular Ingredients in Cantonese cooking:
Minced Pork or Beef
Pepper and Salt
Black Vinegar (dipping)