The Arts in Residence (AIR) and the Confucius Institute at the University of Michigan sponsor bi-monthly cooking workshops in the Residence Halls for students. These workshops showcase Chinese cuisine and offer students a hands-on opportunity to create entire meals from scratch.
Yesterday evening, I ventured to the the cooking workshop in Mojo (res hall slang for Mosher Jordan) and prepared myself for a fantastic feast. As I walked into the kitchen, I noticed that the counters were laden with goods just waiting to be used, from soy sauce to sesame oil and mung bean noodles to hot pot pork. Shih-Wen Wu, our master of Chinese cooking for the workshops, selected the following menu for the evening:
Ma-Po’s Tofu with Bean Curd
Wontons, boiled in a light broth with baby bok choy
Ants Climbing up a Tree (mung bean noodles with ground pork)
Roasted Rice Meat Ball
Our first order of business was to make the wontons. Me and a few other students were mistakenly calling the wontons “dumplings,” but there is a difference between the two. Wontons are usually stuffed with pork, green onions, and garlic. They are typically boiled in a broth or pan seared. Dumplings are filled with any type of meat, and they can be boiled, fried, steamed, or baked. We boiled the wontons in chicken stock with baby bok choy.
To the pork, we added green onions, soy sauce, salt, sesame oil, cornstarch, minced ginger, Chinese cooking wine, chopped shrimp, 3 tablespoons water, and 1 egg white. For wontons, I learned that you you really need to mix the meat until the individual pieces of ground pork become incorporated.
To stuff the wontons, we scooped a small amount of the pork mixture and placed it in the center of the wonton wrapper. Using our fingers, we then lined the edges of the wonton wrapper with water, which acts as an adhesive for the wrapper. We folded the wrapper in half, so that it resembled a bulging triangle, and then brought the two edges together. Not of all our shapes came ou perfect, but it was a fun process! And with about eight people, the time we spent wonton wrapping flew by.
This post will be too long if I explain the remaining dishes in detail, but I will say, all of the dishes were great! My favorite dish of the evening was Ants Climbing Up the Tree. I was a big fan of the mung bean noodles, cooked with green onions, ground pork, and soy sauce. When they’re cooked, the noodles develop a clear, glassy look. They also tend to clump together, which makes for a rather messy eating process, but hey, I’m not exactly a pro with chop sticks.
If you ever have the chance to attend a cooking workshop, you should definitely do it! It is a great way to learn new about different cooking methods, various ingredients, and simply broaden your culinary horizons.