A group of expats attended a family cooking class to learn how to make xiaolongbao yesterday.
The event, organized by the City News Service, a platform supported by the Information Office of Shanghai Municipality and run by Shanghai Daily, and Huacao International Community Center (HICC), invited nine expats from eight countries including as the US, UK, Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic and India, to take part.
It was the first offline event in Huacao Town after CNS's first offline service station was set up at the center in early December with the aim of creating a more expat-friendly society in which foreigners can have a wider and closer access to local government affairs and community life.
Guo Zhenghua, a skilled chef from Fumai Xiaolong, a Shanghai cuisine and snack chain store brand, together with a colleague, guided the group in making juicy and tasty xiaolongbao, or small steamed buns.
To make authentic Shanghai small steamed buns, picking the right ingredients is essential, such as locally produced pork leg, middle gluten flour, tap water and pork skin jelly.
The pork leg will be ground into pork paste, and condiments will include ginger paste, salt, sugar and chopped green onion.
Flour and water are first mixed together to form a dough to be sliced into bars.
The bar is grasped in the left hand and pulled and cut using the right.
Then each piece is shaped into a flat disc with a thicker center and thinner rim, then filled with ingredients using chopsticks. One piece will hold 20 grams of filling.
The final step is moving the disc anti-clockwise with the index and thumb of the right hand, while making folds clockwise by pinching with the left hand to close up the bun.
When finished, a xiaolongbao looks like a water chestnut and has usually about 18 folds on the top. Each weighs about 30 grams.
A bamboo steamer will hold about six small steamed buns for the final steaming process.
Nicole Stewart from the US has been living in Minhang District in Shanghai for nine and a half years. She described the event as "fun" and "lively."
"Last time I attended (a cooking lesson at HICC) was my first time, it was an Indian cooking class. So this time learning about xiaolongbao is perfect with the upcoming Chinese New Year," she said.
"I did not anticipate the technique being so challenging to pick up, but it was only with practice. Maybe that skill will come. But it was fun, lively and nice to be with my neighbors, learning this new food."
Angela Petersen, a UK national who recently moved to Shanghai from Germany, said: "I've made dumplings before, but never like this. This is quite challenging, to get the pinching right and to understand how much filling to put in."
The expats praised the CNS platform.
"I think that City News is good at breaking down steps if it's like a government policy making process, or upcoming events, or even basics like what Chinese New Year is," said Stewart. "Growing up in America, I don't know everything. So it's helpful, friendly, easy, fun, platform to educate myself and share with friends and my family."
For newcomer Petersen, exploring the city and getting to know it better is on her agenda.
"I mean we've been very busy settling in and so we haven't seen very much of Shanghai yet. So I'd like to explore Shanghai, also mixing myself into the expat community, getting involved in events. But also like the sort of events that involve Chinese as well," she said.
Petersen also talked about how in Germany, her late host country, people welcomed their foreign guests.
"We had small community centers. We had a lot of activities for women and also a lot of groups for children under two years old, coffee mornings and international cooking where everybody bought international dishes of their country, and we all enjoy that together."