Cooking Up Culture

Part of my new job as a graduate assistant for Culinary Arts is assisting with our hands-on classes. Our department holds cooking classes for kids aged 8-17, called “Cooking Up Culture.” We are hosting two classes this term, and the first one was last weekend with Irene Li of Mei Mei.

Last semester, I had the pleasure of working with Irene for a demo event promoting her cookbook, Double Awesome Chinese Food. (This is a great cookbook, and I highly recommend picking up a copy). We brought back all the same recipes for the kids class. We had 14 kids come to learn how to make dumplings, biang biang noodles, scallion pancakes, and smacked cucumber salad.

Because we were working with minors, I did not take any pictures showing the kids, just the food. I will say though that these kids had such a blast cooking these dishes. My group of kids got very into making their dishes. They spent a good deal of time filling dumplings and experimenting with different shapes. The younger kids in my group were hesitant at first to work with the dumplings, but once I helped them with a couple, they were shaping them with ease.


The kids probably had the most fun with pulling the biang biang noodles, and I am not surprised. My own Culinary Arts class (where we were all adults) had a lot of fun pulling noodles.

The noodle and scallion pancake doughs were made ahead of time because they need time to rest. Irene brought the dough for the biang biang noodles, which needs a good 48 hours to rest. I made a big batch of the hot water dough that morning for the scallion pancakes. I love getting to work with doughs, so this was great practice for me.

Last weekend was exhausting for me. I worked nearly nonstop. Aside from our cooking class (and prep the day before), it was Valentine’s Day, so the restaurant was slammed. I was utterly exhausted and just trying to keep myself awake and focused. Yet, seeing the look on the kids faces as they ate the food they cooked made it all worth it. These kids had a feast! Some of the kids were so tiny, and I couldn’t believe how much food they fit into their bodies.

Our next “Cooking Up Culture” class will be during the first weekend in May. It is a mother-child class featuring recipes for Mother’s Day brunch. I am looking forward to another one of these classes.