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Chinese Dumpling Master Class & Johnnie Walker cocktails, VCW2023

Continuing on with my coverage of the 2nd annual Vancouver Cocktail Week, I was giddy to be able to attend one of their seminars. So far, I have participated in 2 of their Happy Hours with branded and themed cocktails served along side a rotation of small bites, so to be able to experience a different side to the week of cocktail forward festivities was a treat.

This was not necessarily a seminar on spirits, but did involve the serving of them. Guests gathered to Chinatown’s Propaganda Coffee after hours for a hands-on experience on how to properly fold and stuff dumplings. Each participant was seated at a table set with a stack of pre-made dumpling wrappers, an sauce dish of egg whites, and a shared plate to place your finished product on.

As taken from the event invitation, “Dumplings are not just one of the best-loved foods in China and around the world, they also symbolize good fortune and wealth. Judy, also known as the dumpling diva, passes on this Chinese tradition through her dumpling-making masterclass that has been featured by CityTV, WhereTraveler and Airbnb.”

“This will be a hands-on experience. We’ll discuss what makes a good filling, prep the ingredients (local, organic and free range), fold the wrappers, cook the dumplings and then, of course, we’ll eat them. While learning to be a dumpling-making master, you will enjoy well-crafted Johnnie Walker cocktails. By the end of the three-hour experience, you’ll be an expert!”

As guests filtered in, those already seated in their chosen place were able to mix and mingle while nibbling on prawn chips, as the first of 3 cocktails, staggered throughout the 3-hour session arrived at the table. Each cocktail was premixed featuring Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky. I loved the creativity that went into each, and being able to hear the how-to crafting tips and tricks from the agency reps. Although I would have appreciated being able to explore more than just the one label of Johnnie Walker, knowing their line also has a red and blue label they could have pulled from.

The first cocktail was a Yuzu Collins with Johnnie Walker Black, yuzu, lime juice, and soda water. This would be my favourite of the night, although it did not necessarily pair with the dumplings or even the salty shrimp crackers, we were all munching on as we waited. On its own it was a refreshing spritzer with a smokey finish.

Our second cocktail came midway through the folding process. This was a sweeter cocktail prepared with Sencha green tea and mango, alongside Johnnie Walker Black, soda water, and lactic acid. We learned that the lattermost ingredient was used to give the cocktail a creamy mouthfeel. Although the most surprising tidbit I learned was that the microwave was the secret weapon when it came to the rapid infusion of the mango nectar into the green tea. The result, a fruity and floral cocktail that was tasty as is, but once again not necessarily matching the flavours in our mini meal to come. However, I do recognize and appreciate the featuring of two ingredients and flavours more prominent in Chinese cuisine, presented in this cocktail.

And as we came together to eat the finished product we were presented with our 3rd and final cocktail of the evening. This was another citrus forward Johnnie Walker Black cocktail. It too was given a silken mouthfeel by way of lactic acid, alongside lemon grass, Bianca Vermouth, and a lime leaf and grapefruit peel cordial. This cocktail was boiled to distill some of its alcohol content, resulting in a more savoury sipper with a zesty and spicy finish.

As for the dumpling making seminar itself. Guests were given warm towel to wash up with and a at table demonstration by one of the handful of volunteers assisting Judy. We would learn how to smear the egg wash on either ends of the wrapper round, make 3 pleats at one end, and them form a cup for the filling to be scooped into. Not too much of either the pre-made ground chicken and chives or lamb and green onion filling. Just enough so that your dumplings are fulsome without overflowing, as the seams are closed tight.

Each person/group folded their best, once their wrappers were all used and the staging plate full of raw dumplings, each was labelled and then pan-fried as a serving by the aforementioned helpers. We did not play a part in this and were left waiting for the finished product in anticipation. Luckily the cocktails mentioned above were helpful in keeping us distracted.

The workshop itself could have been a bit more involved as we did not get to learn from the “Dumpling Diva herself”, nor did we discover what the recipe for the filling was or how to make our own wrappers, or where to find them baring the former.

When it came time to eat there was a help yourself sauce station, where guests were able to mix and match their own concoctions for dipping into. We had the ability to choose from a collection of hot sauces, vinegar, fish sauce, peanut sauce, and soy sauce; to name a few. This was a fun necessity as I did find the dumplings as is on the bland side and could use more salt and filling.

The dumplings would eventually return to the table fully cooked, flipped upside down and connected to one another by a crunchy shell. It was hard to tell, but I do not believe I ate the ones I made as mine had pleats that look more like origami or the folds of a kimono. Nonetheless this was a fun class to take and a nice thing to say that I have done and can do.

This was a nice taste of a Vancouver Cocktail Week seminar, and I will look forward to attending more next year.

Vancouver cocktail week // March 5-11, 2023

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