There are many food groups that get the I Ate My Way Though team excited, and one of our favourites is definitely yum cha. It probably won’t come as a surprise given our series on Sydney’s Best Yum Cha – part 1 (Best yum cha in sydney CBD), part 2 (Best yum cha in Cabramatta) and part 3 (to come). However, it occurred to us, that we didn’t know the first thing about actually making dim sum from scratch! So in collaboration with East Ocean restaurant, we’ve put together a Dim Sum Mastery series of cooking classes! 

Starting with the basics, we recently tackled a Hong Kong theme where we made our own siu mai (pork and scallop dumplings) and a scallop & prawn dumpling, that is similar to the popular haw gow
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With early childhood memories of dining at East Ocean with my family, the large dining room has retained its warmth and glow over the years. As a long established Chinese restaurant, it’s an exciting collaboration for us to be able to showcase the expertise of the kitchen and their dedication to preserving the dim sum culture. Almost everything is made from scratch in the kitchen – several items such as the siu mai pastry wrappers are ordered in for efficiency but the rest, the chefs take pride in refining the recipes and their cooking techniques. 

The format for these dim sum mastery classes combine a social element whereby attendees can meet other food lovers whilst learn a new skill – and of course, it finishes with eating the dumplings you’ve just made (plus a few other dishes paired with a glass of wine)! 

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We were surrounded by appetising displays of roast duck, barbecued pork, whole roast suckling pig and fish tanks filled with large lobsters, king crabs, coral trouts and barramundi. I wondered if the ducks would be served as Peking Duck pancakes or perhaps sliced thinly and wrapped in silky rice noodle rolls. Will the the crab be stir-fried in the classic combination of ginger and shallots or will it be tossed with minced pork and vermicelli in a crab hot pot?

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As my ‘chef mind’ drifted off, our cooking class began with a trivia on Chinese culture and etiquette and then we got hands-on! 

The hardest thing about learning from a dim sum master who churns out thousands of these a day, was getting him to slow down enough so we could copy his technique!

We learnt that little things such as the firmness of his grip and the ratio of the filling to pastry all played a role in producing the perfect dim sum bite. 

While most restaurants simply top their siu mai with a piece of diced carrot, they’ve upped the game at East Ocean, replacing that with tobiko (flying fish roe). As you can see in the photos below, some of us got pretty carried away with it.

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When it got to making the scallop and prawn dumplings, the pastry needed to be freshly kneaded with hot water to ensure a smooth translucent texture. 

The traditional Chinese rolling pin is a small wooden dowel. The pace in which flour was turned into pastry discs was incredible! The challenge was to make the pastry wrapper strong enough to hold the filling, yet thin enough to not taste doughy. We learnt that the rolling pin never glides over the centre of the pastry, instead, one hand should rotate the pastry which will enable it to pucker up slightly like a sombrero hat. 

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The chefs definitely make it look much easier than it is but you know what, we made a lot of dumplings and they were all edible 😉 

Our next Dim Sum Mastery event will be held on 15th October, 4-6pm, covering Shanghai’s xiao long bao (mini soup dumplings) and pan-fried dumplings and buns. RSVP here or browse other food tours and events

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Jenius.com.au). Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.