When you’ve been married 35 years, coming up with an unique idea for a date night becomes a challenge. Sometimes it takes a thoughtful gift to help us think outside the box and come up with something new. That’s exactly how we ended up signing up for a Chinese dumpling cooking class. On Valentine’s Day of all days.
Our daughter knows we like to travel and experience different cultures and cuisines. But we can’t travel ALL the time…you know…there’s real life to deal with. Work, family, everyday life stuff. So our daughter put together a Christmas gift for us that included watching videos, attending Chinese New Year celebrations, and attending a Chinese dumpling cooking class. We even got to choose the day for the class. It could have been any number of dates, but choosing Valentine’s Day meant we didn’t have to plan anything else that day. (Bonus!!)
A cooking class as a date?
Cooking together turned out to be even more fun than I expected. The chef was entertaining and taught us quite a bit. We got to be together, prep the dumpling filling, learn dumpling-making methods and practice them, cook our own food, and eat it! We even picked up some knife-handling tips, too. Did I mention just how delicious these Chinese dumplings were?!
My husband and I have been to one cooking class before. It was a demonstration-only class, so we didn’t have any hands-on learning. Although we really enjoyed that class, we are much more likely to make Chinese dumplings at home, now that we’ve actually made some.
On our Chinese dumpling cooking class date, we were well-entertained and well-fed. We also had opportunities to socialize with others in the class (if we wished to) and to pick the brain of a very knowledgeable chef. Even though this class was a gift to us, I should add that it was also very affordable, especially when you consider that you’re being entertained, taught, and fed for two hours. Most of the class attendees were couples (probably because it was Valentinei’s Day), but that is by no means a requirement.
You can do this too
It wouldn’t be very kind of me to tell you about a fun outing if you couldn’t duplicate it for yourself! We signed up for the Chinese dumpling cooking class through a website called CocuSocial. CocuSocial means “Social Cooking”, and they have a schedule of cooking classes in 15 different major US cities: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Long Island, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. You don’t have to be living in one of these cities to attend. In fact, I think it would be a lot of fun to take a cooking class like this while traveling. It would introduce you to local cuisine and help you to meet a few people in the area, too.
CocuSocial pairs up professional chefs with unique venues — like hotels, industrial kitchens, or event spaces.The Chinese dumpling cooking class we attended was held in a hotel breakfast room, in a central location to San Diego (Mission Valley). Class topics are also varied. Currently, other options in San Diego include pizza, gnocchi, sushi, tapas, Pad Thai, and French macarons. (I would love to learn how to make macarons, so I’ll probably be attending again!)
Our cooking class was appropriate for all skill levels, even beginners. Our chef made it pretty much impossible for us to fail.
Breakdown of our Chinese dumpling cooking class
- Chef Scott Ingenito introduced himself to us and told us how the class would proceed
- Chef Scott demonstrated correct knife use and cutting techniques
- We prepped our vegetables for the dumpling filling (meat and vegetarian options)
- Chef Scott demonstrated three ways to fold the dumplings: triangle, crescent, and square
- We tried all three methods for folding dumplings
- We cooked our dumplings, either by steaming or frying
- Best part: eating the dumplings!
What else did we learn?
I’m always interested in learning more about the people I interact with. I found it very interesting that Chef Scott is Italian, a musician and was a government employee for many years before going to culinary school in New York. He made his way to San Diego and built up his cooking resume by working with catering companies. Now he has his own cooking sauces line, a catering business and a restaurant.
We also learned that there is some kind of dumpling in every culture — not just Chinese. You shouldn’t fill a dumpling with high-fat ingredients. I guess it just doesn’t turn out as well. A steamed dumpling is called Jiaozi, and a fried dumpling is called Gyoza. With the recipes we were given, I’m confident that I’ll be able to make more dumplings at home.
I learned how to chop food without risking cutting my fingers. (Most people really don’t know the right way to use their knives!)
And I learned that if you begin frying with a cold frying pan, your meat won’t curl up. So that’s the secret to getting nice flat strips of cooked bacon!
I hope you consider taking a cooking class, whether it’s for a date night, a ladies’ night out, or a travel experience. I’m sure you’ll find it just as interesting and fun as we did.