My husband and I both enjoy Japanese Ramen and Gyoza dumplings, so I decided while in Tokyo it would be good fun to learn how to make them in a cooking class, and Mayuko’s Little Kitchen looked like the perfect place.
I had booked the Cooking class directly on Mayuko’s Little Kitchen website, which was very easy and there are a number of cooking classes you can choose from. They last approximately 3 hours.
With my confirmation, came the directions of where to meet, a small train station close to Mayuko’s apartment in the Shibuya area of Tokyo which was easy to find. I had arrived a little early, and realised that some other people standing by me were also there to meet for the class. Mayuko arrived and introduced herself to the 6 of us who had signed up, then we walked a short distance to Mayuko’s apartment where we were to take the class.
Mayuko’s kitchen was compact, as you would expect in a small Japanese apartment, but very organised and everything was set up for our cooking class on our arrival, with ingredients laid out ready for us of prepare.
Mayuko was very welcoming, she helped us all get settled, got us drinks, and we took a moment to all introduce ourselves and where we were from. 2 were from the U.S., 2 were from Australia, and 2 of us from the UK. Then we got stuck into the food preparations, Mayuko gave each of us a job to be doing, I was given the task to chopping the green onions (or Garlic Chives as they are called in Japan) which would be going into the filling of the Gyoza. Others were chopping the Cabbage, garlic and ginger for the Gyoza, and measuring out Soy and Sesame oil.
Mayuko had a great system, so that we could all be involved making parts of the dishes, but also have time to watch what others were doing and see what was involved in putting together each dish.
After the initial chopping of vegetables was done for the Gyoza, we all got to to take it in turns to mix it together with the ground Pork, Soy and Sesame sauce, and see what the filling should look like.
Then Mayuko showed us how to fill the Gyoza skins (dumpling wraps) with a small teaspoon of the filling, damp the edges of the wraps, fold over and then start to crimp the edges in a certain way. To start with I was doing it wrong, by crimping both sides, but Mayuko quickly realised what I was doing and showed me the correct way. It was a bit fiddly, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. She also told us to try to do either 3 or 5 crimps in each Gyoza, as 4 is considered an unlucky number in Japan because when spoken it sounds like the word ‘Death’.
While we had been sitting making our Gyoza, the Pork had been simmering away for the Soysauce flavoured Ramen that we were to make. Again, Mayuko had beautifully shown us how to mix the ingredients together in a saucepan with the Pork to cook. Then we worked on the Dashi Stock which included Bonito Flakes which Mayuko showed us how to shave, which was hard work as the block that you shave the flakes off is very hard! Thankfully, you can buy them already shaved which makes preparation a lot easier.
We also worked on a side dish for our meal, Green beans with crushed sesame seeds, decorated with an edible Chrysanthemum flower. It was a very easy, but flavourful dish to make and looked very pretty too!
At this point in the class we had our Ramen coming together and eggs and other toppings were prepared. The Pork was cut up into slices, the cooked eggs cut in half and other toppings laid out such as sliced leek and radish sprouts and seaweed.
Once everything was ready, we all took it in turns to cook our Ramen noodles, which we then drained and put into our Ramen bowls. We then assembled our Ramen bowls as we desired, adding the Ramen broth, cooked pork, toppings, egg, and seaweed. Mayuko had put out place settings at the table for each of us, with all our dishes laid out. The side dish of green beans, the Gyoza, some Soy Sauce and to the middle of this we added our lovely bowl of Ramen, it made for a pretty place setting! We couldn’t wait to dive in and taste it all, and it really was delicious. I think the fact that we all had a hand in making it made it taste even better!
It was so nice to sit together and enjoy this traditional meal we had made, while we chatted more. We all have varying levels of cooking experience from virtually none, to a couple of our group being quite knowledgeable, and it still worked really well as a group learning experience with Mayuko leading us.
This cooking class was such a great way to learn how to make these dishes, and the small intimate group made it even more fun as we all talked and learned at the same time. Mayuko was so gracious in welcoming us into her home, making us feel so at ease and teaching us so beautifully. She has such a great knack for it! Mayuko also gave us all written instructions to take home, on how to replicate our meal, and ingredients we would need. Cooking classes in a foreign Country I find to always be a rewarding experience and a great way to bring some of the culture home with you.
Since returning from Japan I have already successfully make Gyoza, and have been collecting my special ingredients in preparation for making the Ramen. Some items that were easy to bring home, such as sea kelp, I purchased in Japan, but others I have found on either Amazon.com or at local Asian supermarkets. I can’t wait to make it here at home.
If you want to ready a bit more about my food experiences in Tokyo, Japan, you can try taking a look at my blog post titled “Expanding my food comfort zone”.
Date of visit: November 2019.