You can probably guess I’m into food given that I write for Spoon, but I am also quite the home cook. When not at school, I constantly make food for myself, my family and my friends, but I haven’t been able to show off my skills since coming to college.

With my tiny, windowless dorm kitchen out of the question, I signed up for an in-store cooking class at Sur La Table to learn new recipes and preparation techniques.

After scanning their many course offerings, The Lunar New Year cooking class caught my eye. With a perfect menu of soup dumplings, stir-fried long life noodles and vegetables, Chinese long beans with chili and garlic and ginger ice cream, I immediately bought tickets for me and my friend. Both lovers of Chinese cuisine, we counted down the days until our (hopefully) exquisite feast with great excitement.

Deniz Yoruk

The moment we walked into Sur La Table’s Old Orchard location I noticed only one chef’s stove in the center of the room. I was confused about how the class would go if we didn’t have our own stoves and other essential equipment like pans. Laid out on wooden tables were black aprons and name tags, which we promptly put on as we waited for class to begin.

Our instructor Chef Jose introduced himself and quickly discussed the Lunar New Year menu. When he told the group  the class would be information and observation heavy, I was disappointed. Though I suspected a less hands-on experience, Chef Jose’s words crushed my last bits of hope.

Sur La Table's recipes are confidential, so I won't share every detail, but here is how the class went. We started by making ginger ice cream. Our twelve-person group watched as the two people closest to Chef Jose helped him prepare the ice cream and then he poured the base into the ice cream machine. As the base slowly churned into a thick, creamy consistency, we continued with the other menu items.

Deniz Yoruk

Each person was given a task to complete as we worked on the main entree; I got to put oil in the wok and saute pre-cut onions. We made the stir-fry noodles with vegetables and the chili garlic Chinese green beans simply by throwing measured and prepped ingredients into the wok. For the soup dumplings, however, we had a more important role than just adding ingredients to a pan!

Deniz Yoruk

For the filling of the soup dumplings, we combined the pre-measured ingredients while Chef Jose demonstrated how to roll the dumpling dough. We watched him cut the dough into circles with a steel dumpling cutter. Taking one of the circles, he put a spoonful of filling right in the center of the flattened dough and explained the folding process in detail while demonstrating his expert skills.

Deniz Yoruk

As we embarked on our own folding journeys, Chef Jose’s words of encouragement filled the kitchen: “It will not look good the first time you try, don’t worry about it," he reassured us. "My first try was definitely not pretty! Keep folding the dumplings and you’ll get better.”

Motivated to make okay-looking dumplings, I started folding the dough around the filling. Upon seeing my less-than-okay result, I asked Chef Jose for help. My second try was much better and I can proudly say I made significant improvement over the course of the class. 

Deniz Yoruk

I was soon salivating at the thought of devouring the amazing food we had cooking on the stove. The smell of the garlicky beans and the dumplings sitting in the bamboo steamer had me ready to eat.

In our ten minute break during which plates and cutlery were set on the tables, we got a chance to look at the Sur La Table shop chock-full of kitchen appliances and specialty cookware. When we came back to our prepared table, everything looked divine. Everyone in the class got a small serving of beans and noodles with a couple of soup dumplings.

Despite their imperfect shape, the dumplings were rich and savory. As I bit into the chewy and soft dough, the delicious pork filling and a tiny bit of broth filled my mouth.

My second taste test was the the stir-fried long life noodles and vegetables. To be honest, I was disappointed. Though it was tasty, it was on the mediocre side of the quality scale. I may not be a noodle master, but I’ve definitely made better versions.

Looking at the beans, I hoped they wouldn’t let me down like the noodles before them. Thankfully, they were the best beans I'd ever eaten. The harmony of the crisp green beans and the sweet and garlicky chili sauce was undeniable. I could have eaten an entire plateful, but alas there wasn't any left.

Luckily, the meal ended on a high note with the ginger ice cream. I fell in love instantly with its creamy texture and the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. The hints of ginger elevated the taste of the creamy base and I enjoyed every bite.

Deniz Yoruk

I left Sur La Table with mixed feelings. I was grateful for the new skills I accquired and for the fairly delicious meal, but I was a bit unhappy about the fact that I was still hungry and didn’t have an entirely hands-on experience. Once we got back to my dorm, I was craving Chinese food so much, I ended up ordering some take-out — though it was definitely not as tasty as Sur La Table. 

Despite its flaws, the Lunar New Year cooking class was worth the trip. I recommend an in-store cooking class for anyone, regardless of experience level, interested in cooking and learning new recipes with a little bit of guidance!