There’s a reason I’ve never pursued the culinary arts: I’m a klutz. In addition to the very reasonable fear of losing a digit, I’m about as adept at prettying up an entrée as I was with elementary school arts-and-crafts projects. (“Look what I made you, Mom … No, it’s not a rooster: It’s an ashtray!”)
So it was with some trepidation that I enrolled in “Wonton Love—A Dumpling Master Class” at the Wynn Las Vegas. Last year, the resort began offering lessons wherein guests can glean morsels of specialized knowledge from the property’s team of experts. These experiential classes are taught in fields you’d possibly expect (food preparation, cocktails and beauty) and some you might not (DJing).
For this event, master dim sum chef Sandy Shi teamed up with Chen Wei Chan, executive chef at Wynn’s Red 8, to impart her decades of experience to roughly 30 dim sum’prentices. It was a diverse group: local hipsters, older guests decked out in gold lamé, and a large contingent that was probably part of a convention. We gathered at Andrea’s, the art deco Chinese steakhouse in the resort’s Encore wing, glowing in hues of rose, ivory and cognac.
There, we observed the finer points of making three classics: har gow, a pleated prawn dumpling with a transparent and smooth skin that is considered the true measure of a dim sum chef’s skill (fewer than seven pleats is unacceptable, fewer than ten is just getting by); siu mai, a Cantonese pork and mushroom specialty garnished with roe where the dough is pinched (but not closed) at the top; and pot stickers, the pan-fried meat- and vegetable-filled staple that traces its origins back to the Eastern Han dynasty, around 2,000 years ago.
During the class, Chef Chan would speak and Chef Shi would demonstrate—rather like a culinary tag team. We attempted to re-create a job they’d made seem so easy, preparing the rice pancakes for the har gow, filling them with shrimp and then folding them into dumplings. Chef Shi, naturally, was turning them out in the blink of an eye, and they were all lovely to behold—pinched, pleated and perfectly uniform. I took five minutes to make two, and they were both wonky (apparently, Sloth’s head from The Goonies is not the look they’re going for).
Chef Shi laughed, took my hands in hers, and taught me how to properly pinch the pancake. I was better with the siu mai, and really found my groove with the pot stickers (unless you count the moment when I squeezed too hard and the contents ended up on the blouse of the woman next to me).
And while the idea of eating food that I made is cute, I’m glad we ended the session with a delicious meal prepared by Chef Shi. One bite of her pot stickers, or a glance at her plentifully pleated har gow, makes it clear why she holds the title “Master Chef.” And she’s managed to hold on to all of her fingers, too.