“Hard work should be rewarded by good food” ~ Ken Follett.
Did you know it’s now possible to take a Japanese cooking class with a local without actually being in Japan? Having enjoyed a ramen cooking class in Kyoto before, on recently finding out this juicy piece of information I was pretty excited to learn how to make traditional Japanese gyoza from scratch in my own kitchen!
One of the things I miss most when I’m not travelling in Japan is the food – the delectable, mouthwatering, party-in-your-mouth food. I’m sure many travellers would agree with me on this! Obviously Japanese cooking classes held in Japan have loads of benefits but if you can’t learn to cook Japanese food in Japan, the next best thing is having a friendly local teach you in the comfort of your own home.
Luckily, you won’t need a science fiction teleporter to materialize a Japanese host by your side. All that’s required are your ingredients, an internet connection and access to Zoom to bring cuisine from the Land of the Rising Sun to you, whenever you want.
If you’re curious to learn about being an invisible tourist at home by chatting with a friendly local while taking a Japanese cooking class online, read on for more!
This guide to taking a Japanese cooking class will cover:
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How to take an online Japanese cooking class hosted by a local
If you’re new to my blog (hello and welcome!), you’ll soon see in each of my travel guides and itineraries I’m always chatting about the importance of immersing ourselves in local culture to have more authentic, personal travel experiences. No one likes an annoying tourist who only cares about likes on their social media photos. What’s the point if you don’t know the significance of what you’re sharing?
Learning about Japanese culture through food will give you a greater understanding (and in this case an appreciation for people who create thousands of gyoza per week!) When we can’t travel, online classes can fill the void and quell a case of wanderlust.
airKitchen were kind enough to gift me this experience, but as always did not influence my opinion in any way. I’m quite the critic and will only recommend something if I truly believe it will help you to “be invisible”.
Now with that out of the way, let’s dig into what to expect in an online Japanese cooking class!
What is airKitchen?
airKitchen is an online platform connecting travellers who wish to book authentic cooking classes in Japan with locals. The exciting part is the classes are held in a local’s home, or run by locals in a small group setting so you can have a realistic experience enjoying Japanese culture.
Classes are designed for English speakers, so there’s no need to stress if you haven’t brushed up on your Japanese. It’s a win-win for tourists and locals alike as the experience supports local communities and allows them to showcase the beauty of their culture through cuisine!
In saying that, I was very impressed with my online Japanese cooking class experience and I am happy to share my below thoughts with you so you know what to expect, too.
Types of online Japanese cooking classes available with airKitchen
airKitchen offers a huge variety of classes with focus on specialty Japanese dishes. Here are a few suggestions to give you some ideas for the types of Japanese food you can learn about:
Review of my gyoza cooking class
So, what’s it really like taking a Japanese cooking class held online? Let’s get into the into the details for what to expect.
About my airKitchen host
For my online gyoza cooking class, my host was Junko-san. She had such a kind and friendly personality, we hit it off right away! Due to recent events, Junko-san was not able to work as much within the hotel industry in Tokyo and decided to share her love for cooking with would-be tourists through online classes in the meantime.
Before our class, Junko-san emailed me a list of all the ingredients required to make gyoza from scratch, as well as the utensils I would need to achieve this at home. I’m not going to specifically list all the ingredients here because I’ll leave that to you to find out exactly in the class.
TIP: By the way, for this gyoza making class there’s no need to pre-chop any of the ingredients as there is time allocated to do this within the two hours. We agreed to meet at our set time via a Zoom online invite Junko-san sent me, and we were ready to begin!
Junko-san introduced gyoza by briefly mentioning their history. Did you know gyoza originated in China as dumplings but have since been adapted in Japan to local tastes? While they can be boiled or deep fried, today we would be making yaki (pan-fried) gyoza.
Making the gyoza wrapper dough
The first step was to create the gyoza wrappers by combining the flour and water in a large mixing bowl. Junko-san demonstrated the desired consistency for the dough on screen. This involved a lot of kneading to get it nice and stretchy! Then, the dough needed to be wrapped in cling film and placed to the side.
Preparing the gyoza filling
Next, it was time to chop up the ingredients needed for the gyoza filling. This consists of vegetables, a protein like chicken or pork, and some special sauces to make the flavours taste authentically Japanese. Junko-san explained all dry ingredients needed to be chopped very finely before combining together into a mixture.
Once the ingredients were chopped finely enough, we combined our vegetables and protein in a large mixing bowl, then proceeded to add the liquid ingredients. Using our hands to really work the mixture into a paste-like consistency, Junko-san and I then covered our mixing bowls with cling film and placed our bowls in the fridge before we began our next step.
Creating the gyoza wrappers
After some time, our dough had become more stretchy and ready to be portioned into a dozen little circles of goodness. We unwrapped our dough ball and Junko-san demonstrated how to slice the portions of dough evenly so all the gyoza wrappers would end up being about the same size.
Once portioned, we placed the pieces into a bowl and covered with cling wrap so they wouldn’t dry out while we rolled the dough. I had my travel buddy helping out here so I could document the process – it took two of us to carefully roll and craft the dozen pieces into usable circular shapes in the time Junko-san did it on her own!
Filling and sealing the gyoza
Junko-san made this next part look sooo easy! Taking a circular piece of dough, Junko san-san showed how to place the mixture within the gyoza wrapper. She then carefully explained the correct way to apply a small amount of water to the dough so it would seal once folded. Although, there is a decorative way to seal the gyoza!
I’ll never forget Junko-san saying “make a pleat, pinch” to enclose the filling. And here is my finished result. They weren’t too bad for my first attempt, haha.
Cooking the gyoza
Now it was time for the final part – cooking the gyoza. As a huge part of Japanese cuisine is the presentation, Junko-san explained how to place the gyoza into the frying pan in a flower-like pattern. With a splash of sesame oil and steady hands, I placed my gyoza into the pan. Almost immediately the aroma from these hitting the hot pan was incredible and momentarily sent my senses back to Japan!
Once the gyoza had a golden-brown sear on their bottoms, Junko-san asked to inspect them on screen and with her approval we covered our gyoza to steam for three minutes. Finally, once they were ready Junko-san showed us how to remove the gyoza from the frying pan. Here’s a hint: they all come out at once.
My travel buddy lowered a dish upside-down into the frying pan and with a flick of the wrist, tipped the frying pan so the dish became right-way up and the gyoza placed in their flower pattern. Voila, dinner was served!
We then enjoyed a few bites with Junko-san and had a chat. It was a great way to spend the evening and I’m so thankful to have had such a friendly local to chat to about our travels and interests.
How to book your own traditional Japanese cooking class
Fancy bringing Japan into your kitchen for a few hours? Once you’ve decided on the Japanese cooking class you’d like to take, booking is really simple and only takes 4 steps:
That’s it! You’ll then receive en email from airKitchen saying your request for that date and time has been received. My class was confirmed with my host within 24 hours, and if your host is flexible you can agree on a time that suits you both.
Final thoughts on my online Japanese cooking experience
Here are my final thoughts on taking an online Japanese cooking class and how it differs to other options:
- I loved that I could do this directly from my own home and didn’t have to search online for Japanese cooking classes near me.
- Online cooking classes are a great alternative to experience travel through food when actual travel is not an option.
- Having a local walk you through the cooking process step by step in real time is more beneficial than watching a YouTube video of the same thing. My host was able to make suggestions along the way and I was able to ask questions throughout the class.
- airKitchen classes support real locals whose main source of income in the tourism industry may have been negatively impacted recently.
- Nothing beats the company and conversation with a local who loves sharing their passion for cooking and travel with people like me from anywhere in the world!
There is something very special about knowing you’re helping to support local businesses and keeping traditions alive through taking these types of online cooking classes. They’re also pretty fun, even for someone like me who is usually quite hopeless in the kitchen.
Many thanks again to my host Junko-san and airKitchen for making this article possible. Being an invisible tourist at home is better than you think!
Have I provided you with some insight as to what it’s really like taking an online cooking class with a local in Japan? Would this be something you’d like to try someday? Let me know in the comments below!
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Until next time,
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This guide to an online Japanese cooking class contains some affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you decide to make a purchase and if you do, thanks for your support! This helps with the costs of running my blog so I can keep my content free for you. As always, I only recommend a product or service that I genuinely love and use myself!