It’s all well and good cavorting around Beijing’s restaurants every night of the week, but sometimes the dish of the day just has to be a home-cooked meal. If you don’t know your skillet from your millet, brush up on your kitchen skills at one of the city’s many Chinese cooking classes.
Beijing Cooking School
Located just south of Dongsi, Beijing Cooking School is one of the oldest kids on the block, with more than a decade of teaching under its belt. Classes run for three hours, and options include traditional Beijing fare, spicy Hunan or Sichuan classes, dim sum and Cantonese cuisines. Students (up to 11 per class) are led by the masterful Chef Chao, a third- generation cook who takes a technical approach to his teaching, focusing on knife and wok skills as well as the delicate art of dough preparation. For an extra 100RMB per person, you can join Chao for a trip to a nearby farmers’ market.
Info 10.30am-1.30pm. Tuesday-Sunday. 350RMB per person. Book online at beijingcookingschool.com.
Another culinary stalwart is The Hutong, a community and cultural centre in Beixinqiao. Despite its slightly unhelpful name (don’t bother trying to search for it on Apple Maps), the staff here are anything but. They’ve been running cooking classes for eight years now, and offer lessons on Yunnan, Sichuan and Shanxi cuisine, as well as dedicated sessions for xiaolongbao, jiaozi, hand-pulled noodles and knife skills. Classes are a manageable two- and-a-half hours, so the sounds of your stomach rumbling shouldn’t disturb your fellow trainee chefs for too long.
Info Various times daily. Tuesday-Sunday. 300RMB per person (260RMB for members). Book online at thehutong.com.
China Culture Center
Over by Chaoyang Park, the China Culture Center has been running cooking classes for 17 years now. The centre offers a whole range of cultural activities such as tea ceremonies, Peking Opera make-up and calligraphy, but when it comes to the kitchen, the main classes are on dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, pastries and shaomai (a kind of open- topped steamed bite, whose thin dough is delicately rendered into a floral pattern).
Info Classes are by appointment only. 1,600RMB for a group of four. Book online at chinaculturecenter.org.
Gulou’s cutest boutique hotel is probably best known amongst Beijingers for its popular brunch, but the folk at The Orchid also put on weekly dumpling-making classes for locals and visitors alike. Classes are capped at eight wannabe dumpling artists per session, so there’s plenty of time for the bilingual instructors to help you finesse your jiaozi pinching technique. In the two-and-a-half hour class, you’ll make and eat traditional Beijing dumplings, as well as healthier modern twists, such as dough made with spinach or carrot. The price of the class includes free flow soft drinks, beer and wine.
Info 7.30pm-10pm. Every Tuesday. 250RMB per person (200RMB for hotel guests). Book online at theorchidbeijing.com.
Black Sesame Kitchen
This courtyard kitchen nearby the Forbidden City hosts bi-weekly supper clubs that have been drawing in celebratory diners for a while now. Whether or not you’ve been lucky enough to sample one of Black Sesame’s ten-course extravaganzas, the prospect of recreating its dishes is an enchanting one. Lunchtime cooking classes range from Chinese imperial cuisine, regional dishes, dumplings (with at least 14 types of filling on offer) and noodles (hand-cut, hand-pulled and more). Whichever option you choose, you’ll end up making three separate dishes. For a more luxurious twist, try the deluxe wine ‘n’ dine experience (390RMB per person), which combines the restaurant’s famous dinner with an introductory mini-dumpling class (mini referring to the class, not the size of the dumplings, thankfully) and a cocktail. Offering a taste of fine dining while also getting your hands dirty, Black Sesame Kitchen delivers a premium experience at a not-so-premium price.
Info 11am-2pm. Wednesday and Sunday. 300RMB per person. Email email@example.com.
One of the most popular cooking schools in the city is Beijinger Kitchen, an intimate establishment tucked away in a Fangjia Hutong courtyard. Each session, whether at lunch or dinner (times are flexible depending on the requirements of your group), begins with a trip to a local market, followed by a hands-on class led by one of the school’s six instructors, who are all prestigious local chefs. Classes are small and focus on the history of the dishes as well as more practical skills. When it comes to plating up, groups larger than four will also get to sample alternative dishes prepared by the pros to complement (overshadow) your amateur attempts.
Info Around lunch and dinnertimes. Daily. Price varies depending on size of group – a gang of three will pay 280RMB each. Book online at beijingerkitchen.com.