I have got the most fabulous fiancé in the whole world who really knows how to give a Christmas gift. Last year was a personal Indian Cooking Class at home and this year was a poké making class with my new favorite company, City Cooking West End. Not only was it super informative, delicious, and healthy, it was a heck of a lot of fun! I can’t tell you how much I recommend them, but I’ll try! I won’t give the exact recipes either, just because I want to encourage you to try the classes yourself!
I think Matt knew for a while that all I wanted for Christmas was to take a cooking class with him! Probably because I found ways to tell him in not-so-subtle ways. Like by saying, “Matt, all I want for Christmas is to take a cooking class with you.” And he got the hint! He hid a piece of paper telling me we were going in a Momofuku cook book he also got me (can’t wait to try those recipes btw.) Needless to say I was very excited because I wasn’t even sure Matt knew what poké was or that I liked it so much.
For those of you who may not know, poké is an authentic Hawaiian dish made with raw fish cut up and usually served over a bed of white rice or seaweed. In recent years it’s become super popular on the NYC food scene, and many poké places have lines out the door. I can only speculate on why this dish is suddenly so popular; maybe because it has the same fresh appeal as sushi, it’s healthy, it’s interesting, it’s delicious, and it’s totally instagrammable!
I’m not sure how Matt found a poké making class in the plethora of classes offered in the city, but he did. Another reason why I love him is because he knows me so well and likes to do interesting things with me. Although I definitely wouldn’t have complained about an Italian or American class, poké has an unusual appeal and is not something the average person would know about.
Like I mentioned before, the classes are taught through City Cooking West End, which is a company created by Stephanie Sarikaya, who is a food blogger and created the blog citycookin.com. The classes are held in Urbani Truffles, which is a wholesale truffle distributing storefront that provides truffles to a large portion of NYC restaurants. The store is beautiful; it’s open, bright, and airy, with a beautiful kitchen with slanted ceiling mirrors and stainless steel appliances.
When we first arrived we took a minute browsing the different truffle products that they have for sale in the store; things like truffle ketchup and truffle balsamic vinegar. Shortly after Stephanie and the Chef, Ken, introduced themselves and the class began. We were in a class of six people and we were all served champagne at the beginning of class, which made me real happy. We gathered at our food stations which were all set up with all the ingredients that we would need for the day, and we were set up with a partner which of course was Matt in my case.
On the menu for the day were ahi tuna “california roll” poké, spicy salmon poké, and poké gyoza (dumplings). We started by cutting up the salmon and the tuna in 1 centimeter cubes and separating them into two bowls. As Chef Ken explained, it’s crucial to have fresh fish for poké since you’re eating it raw, so you must either talk to your fishmonger or buy “sushi-grade” salmon or tuna which will come in vacuum sealed frozen packs. To both pokés you add sweet onion, pickled ginger, some ogi (or fresh seaweed), and some thinly sliced scallions, then you’ll toss the fish in mirin (sweet cooking sake), soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili garlic paste. For the salmon you add more chili garlic paste to make it spicy, as well as a bit of mayonnaise. The tuna bowl gets some diced cucumber, avocado, and imitation crab meat to give it the “California roll” title, BUT before you add these ingredients, put about 4 spoonfuls aside because you can use this to make dumplings!
The dumplings are so easy. You just put a small amount (less than a spoonful) in the center of a wonton wrapper. Using a little water dapped around the edges, you seal them shut and press the edges with a fork to seal them in. Using a little but of sesame oil in a hot pan, you sear one side of the dumplings until there is a nice golden brown sear. Then you add in a little bit off water which will start sizzling immediately, and put a lid on the pan to trap the steam in. Then you let them steam until all the water is gone! Voila! You can serve these dumplings with a sauce made with scallions, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, and chili garlic paste. Yum!
So there we have it. We had two different bowls of poké and some dumplings as an appetizer. You serve the poké on a bed of steamed white rice, which is to die for. You could do plain white rice, but Chef Ken steamed his rice (4 cups) then added a tablespoon of mirin and of rice vinegar, which makes it sticky and flavorful. Before you serve the meal you can add a generous pinch of toasted sesame seeds to the poké, which adds a nice flavor and crunch.
We all sat down at the beautifully decorated table with a glass of crisp, dry, refreshing white wine to enjoy our food. The other people in our group were all personable and social and we were all having a really great time.
To top it all off, Stephanie surprised us with quite possible the best dessert that I could have imagined at the time. Apparently the most popular recipe on her blog is a recreation of Levain Bakery’s chocolate chip cookie! If you’re not familiar with Levain, it’s practically the most famous bakery in NYC for their cookies, and their lines can be hours long. Her cookie that she served us was magical.
By the end of the class I was the happiest girl in the world. Our poké making class was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I cannot WAIT to go back for another class with City Cooking West End! They get 5/5 stars!