“Hard work should be rewarded by good food.” ~ Ken Follett.
Here on my blog I’m always banging on about the importance of learning more of the culture of our destinations through cultural experiences, rather than just chasing photos for social media. One of the best (and most popular) ways to discover more about a new culture is through their food. Oh, marvellous food!
On one of my multiple trips to Japan, I decided to practice what I preach and take an authentic Kyoto cooking class to share my findings with you.
To be honest, I am absolutely no cook so I was a little nervous about taking a cooking class in Kyoto. The Japanese are some of the world’s finest chefs, after all! Anyone who knows me personally likes to have a joke about my lack of skills in the kitchen. I’ll also be the first to admit it, too!
It’s completely fine though, because I know if you’re anything like me, it just means we are good at other things… right? Haha.
Anyway, let’s get chatting about the interesting part. If you’d like to add a cooking class to your itinerary for Kyoto, learning an authentic Japanese recipe in gorgeous surroundings is going to be for you.
But, how do you find these classes? Will the chefs speak English? What are the chances you’ll mess something up?? Read on to find these answers and more!
This guide to taking a Kyoto cooking class will cover:
This post contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
What is airKitchen?
airKitchen is an online platform that allows you to browse and book authentic cooking classes throughout Japan. The best part is the Japanese food classes are in local’s homes, in a traditional Japanese house, or run by locals in a small group setting so you can get a true feel for Japanese culture.
No need to worry if you haven’t brushed up on your Japanese as the classes are designed for English speakers. As the experience supports locals and showcases their culture through food, it’s a win-win for tourists and locals alike!
So when airKitchen contacted me about taking a class, despite my initial nervousness I wanted to give it a try during my time in Kyoto. I experienced this class as a press invite, but rest assured this did not influence my opinion in any way. I’m a pretty fierce critic and you guys know I only recommend something if I truly believe in it.
In saying that, I was quite impressed with the experience and I am happy to share my below thoughts with you so you know what to expect by taking a Kyoto cooking class when you’re in Japan, too.
Types of cooking classes in Kyoto with airKitchen
Oh, the choices! It’s no secret that Japanese cuisine is one of my favourites and it’s becoming increasingly popular outside Japan, too. The hardest thing for me was choosing the class to take, there are so many!
There is definitely something to suit all tastes, even if you’re vegan or vegetarian. Yep, that’s right – I know it can be tough for you guys to find food in Japan, so airKitchen have you covered.
After what seemed like an eternity of indecisiveness on my part, I finally settled on taking this Ramen Cooking Class. Boy, was I in for a treat!
Types of cooking classes with airKitchen
If ramen is not your thing, that’s ok as there are loads of different cooking classes in Kyoto and throughout Japan to choose from, including Japanese sweets and classes to suit vegans and vegetarians:
Click here to view all Kyoto cooking classes →
Click here for more cooking classes throughout Japan!
My experience at a Kyoto cooking class
Now, to the part you’ve been waiting for! What’s it really like taking a ramen cooking class within the stunning suburbs of Kyoto?
When I first arrived I was warmly greeted by my hostesses Michi, Machi & Nori, which helped ease my nerves a little. Before long I was donning a cool Ramen Factory apron and bandana, quickly washed my hands, then was shown to my table.
TIP: The wave of relief that washed over me when I saw there was an easy step-by-step guide book placed on the table right in front of me was amazing! With the help of my hostesses AND this book, even I couldn’t screw this up, surely?
Firstly, I was given a piece of flattened chicken that I needed to roll and tie with cooking twine. Once complete, I placed it into a saucepan where it would then cook in a tasty chicken stock.
It was at this point I realised that all the ingredients needed for the stock and noodles had been pre-prepared into their corresponding measuring cups for my convenience. With even this step done in advance, I was now feeling pretty confident that I was on my way to creating something delicious!
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After pouring the chicken stock into the saucepan, my hostess then set it over on a stove to cook while I made the noodles… From scratch!
To prepare the noodles, firstly I had to sift some flour into a large mixing bowl. I then had to make a small mound out of the flour – my own miniature Mt Fuji – leaving a little dip in the top to pour the salt water.
Next, I slowly added the water in 3 stages, taking a pause between each stage of kneading the mixture before adding more water. It didn’t take too long for the flour and water to be combined into what looked like a small bun.
This next part made me REALLY appreciate people who created noodles from scratch in previous centuries, and who still do so today. The small bun shape needed to be PUNCHED 100 TIMES before it could be rolled flat. That’s right, 100 times. With force.
During this trip to Japan I thought I had my fair share of a workout carting my suitcase up staircases in ryokans. This punching part really burned my upper arms, no word of a lie! To make it a little easier on myself, I punched the dough 10-15 times before folding it over and repeating the process. Don’t think you can skip a few punches because your hostesses will be checking, ha!
Once my mini-punching workout was complete, it was time to roll the dough into a flat strip so it could be fed into the noodle-cutting machine. Whilst I was making sure my noodle strip wasn’t too wide for the machine, I was secretly grateful this gadget would do the cutting work for me here.
When my dough was the correct thickness and width, I fed it into the noodle-cutting machine and turned the handle. It’s cool to watch your noodles wriggle on down on to the tray beneath them, all the while knowing they’ll be in your tummy before long.
By this point, my chicken cooking in stock on the stove was ready. I removed the chicken from the saucepan with tongs then used kitchen scissors to cut the twine. Next, I needed to slice the chicken into bite-sized chunks and place them into a small ceramic dish.
Now for the fun part! Taking a blow torch, I slowly seared the chicken pieces on both sides until they were golden and a little crispy. The aroma from the chicken when doing this was divine! By now I was getting really excited knowing I was going to devour this soon.
The next stage was to customise my ramen broth flavour. There were three options for the broth bases: salt, soy sauce or miso. Whatever options you choose, the total mixture needs to equal one spoonful as mentioned in the image below.
The white miso paste used in the miso soup mixture was a special variant exclusive to the Kyoto region, so that made itf feel very authentic. Of course I had to try that, so I chose option #2 which was soy sauce and miso. I quickly whisked the broth to combine my ingredients and my hostess set it on the stove to boil while I cooked the noodles.
My hostess set a timer for 50 seconds to cook the noodles. They needed to be dunked into boiling water, stirred for about 40 seconds so they didn’t stick then set for the final 10 seconds. Once the timer was up, I removed the noodles from the boil and shook any remaining water away in their drainer.
Now for the presentation! My tummy began to rumble as I poured the noodles into a bowl of my choice (“No Ramen No Life”, Ramen Factory’s slogan). Then I added my custom sauce and chicken to the bowl. In the meantime, my hostess had prepared a boiled egg that had THE perfect yolk for ramen, so I cut it in half with an egg slicer and placed into my bowl.
Finally to garnish the dish, I had a choice of spring onion, onion flakes and dusting of Japanese pepper. I hurriedly sprinkled a little of each into my bowl, and voila! The finished result!
TIP: This ramen cooking class also means you get to choose a souvenir to take home – I chose the Ramen Factory apron. I also received a certificate for completing the class.
How to book your own cooking class in Kyoto (or throughout Japan)
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, then the host will confirm with you within 24 hours. For me, my class was confirmed in under 24 hours which was great. The confirmation email also detailed the address and contact information of my host.
Final thoughts on my cooking class in Kyoto
As someone who can be a little accident prone in the kitchen, I love that there was no confusion or room for error in this Kyoto cooking class. Instructions provided in the guide book and from each hostess were clear and simple to follow, even someone like me found it quite easy and very enjoyable to do!
Once I devoured my lunch, I was surprised I had actually made something that tasted THAT good! It was literally the best ramen I’ve ever tried (ok, maybe I’m being a little biased now).
TIP: If you decided to take a cooking class, in Japan it’s very important to be punctual. To be polite and respectful to your hosts, make sure you aren’t late by turning up around 10 minutes before you class is due to start. This experience lasts 1.5 hours so allow for this in your day before your next activity.
Again, a huge thanks to airKitchen for inviting me on this experience and making this article possible! I thoroughly enjoyed my Kyoto cooking class and now I know what to expect, I daresay I’d even try another airKitchen class on my next trip to Japan.
After all that, I think I’m living proof that even if you aren’t known for your culinary skills, you should definitely have a shot at trying an authentic cooking class in Japan. Despite feeling like home cooking is a chore most of the time, I actually thoroughly enjoyed this class and found it fun!
The icing on the cake here (or perhaps the boiled egg on the ramen – you get the idea) was knowing that I was helping support a local business in one of Japan’s most historically rich cities by keeping this tradition alive. There’s something truly special about that.
Do you enjoy cultural experiences like this when you travel? For more fun activities, be sure to check my comprehensive reviews about all the fun kinds of experiences in Japan you can add to your trip.
Have I provided you with some insight as to what it’s really like to take a cooking class while in Japan? Would this be something you’d like to try someday? Let me know in the comments below! If you found this helpful please share it with your friends or come and join me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok for more Japan inspiration!
Until next time,
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This guide to a cooking class Kyoto 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!