What do ears and dumplings have in common? How spicy is Sichuan cooking? Is it difficult to prepare Gongbao spicy chicken? The Hutong in Beijing will help you learn that and more.

The Hutong is “hidden” in the hutongs – the word for narrow streets or alleys in China – and is difficult to find it if it’s your first time here. Zigzagging through narrow streets, I reach the bright-red double door of The Hutong.
A blond woman greets me with the warmest of smiles. The native Norwegian leads me to a neatly-arranged room that hosts a long table covered with a dozen bowls filled with spices, chopped herbs, ready-to-cook mushrooms and piles of flour stands all surrounded by high bar-like wooden chairs.

Dumplings and ears

The team is getting ready for a cooking class. Today a Chinese lady, speaking very clear English, will show us how to make Chinese dumplings. Our international and eager group, composed of tourists and foreigners who reside in Beijing hangs on every word. She is very patient and skillful, and a smart storyteller.

Moreover, her soft voice carries us through the centuries of fascinating history of China to the time when a doctor created dumplings with a sophisticated filling that remedied the ear diseases of his suffering patients. Since then it has become a tradition to eat dumplings in winter.
Apparently, this is mostly endemic to the northern part of China, as the southern part enjoys its specialties. And so, today we plunge into the sea of odors and tastes of ear-shaped ravioli. I have to admit,  a struggle with the dough requires all of my patience. Out of the corner of my eye, I see how my German neighbor advances faster. Ah, it is his seventh time. I must practice.
Sofia wanders around the table, corrects our dough pinching and tells us how Chinese families get together at least once per week for a dumpling-making evening to prepare sufficiently for everyone for the following week.
Today, we compose a small group, so our Chinese teacher notices and advice each of us. She encourages as to make dumplings for our families -we gladly take recipes provided by The Hutong home.

A dumpling-making session in the Hutong

A dumpling-making lesson is perfect for team building, and other options at the Hutong include learning how to cook Yunnan vegetarian dishes and other Chinese specialties. It offers a variety of other activities, as well: tea tasting, experimenting with traditional Chinese medicine, guided trips in Beijing on bicycles and much more.

Savoring boiled, fried, vegetarian, meat-filled, some badly shaped dumplings we understood why The Hutong  celebrated its 10th anniversary last year and has established itself as one of most wanted cooking schools and catering spots in Beijing. And it started as a simple entertainment place for friends and family of an Australian couple ( Mark Thirlwall and Stacey Shine).

The Hutong invites to swing by their courtyard for an event, workshop or a cooking class. A regular price comprises 300 RMB (or 42 euro) per 2 1/2 hour cooking lesson. I enjoy going there from time to time.

The Hutong, 1000007 Jiudaowan Zhongxiang, Beixinqiao, Dongcheng District, Beijing. +8615901046127. info@thehutong.com, thehutong.com