Learn how to make dumplings at Umami Food Studio

13 Mar 2024
Waterfall City may not sound like the logical place to find some of the finest dumplings Johannesburg has to offer, but it's where Rany Jo of Umami Food Studio is based. And if you are a fan of these tiny and delicious pockets of goodness, this is the place to learn how to make them.  

Jo is originally from South Korea. After tying the knot with her husband after a three-year long-distance relationship, she made the move to South Africa but soon found she was hankering for the flavours of Asia. So, she decided to start cooking the dishes she craved: homemade dumplings, Korean BBQ, kimchi fried rice, Vietnamese street food, and Japanese udon noodles.
Rany Jo, founder of Umami Food Studio. Photo: Supplied.

Jo studied at a hotel school in Switzerland and spent time cooking in hotels around the world. Once settled in South Africa her food became popular amongst her friends who were also craving this kind of cooking, so she decided to start Umami Food Studio to make Asian food more accessible to South Africans.

Her ethos is simple and since starting in 2017, she’s been fine-tuning ways of teaching people how to make super tasty dishes from across Asia with as little fuss as possible (she understands all too well that life in Joburg is busy, after all).
Perfectly folded dumplings ready to be steamed. Photo: Umami Food Studio

She offers a range of weekly cooking classes from her home kitchen, including lessons in making the ultimate poke and sushi, Thai noodles and laksa, Vietnamese street food, Korean fried chicken and bao, and ramen. But her most popular class is her Dumpling 101 class which covers the fundamentals of dumpling making.
As lovers of a good dumpling, we recently joined her at her home for a standard four-hour class to learn all her tricks and tips. After welcome drinks made with Jo's homemade cordials and a small taste of what was to come, we started, having donned our aprons, tasting spoons at the ready, and pens at hand to make notes on our recipe sheets.
Steaming away. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

Jo’s dumpling class covers three stages: preparing the filling, folding, and cooking – each stage essential to producing a satisfying, steaming bowl of dumplings, whether enjoyed in a wonton soup or with flavoursome dipping sauces (you’ll learn how to make these, too). True to her style of keeping it simple, we used pre-bought, frozen dumpling skins that we stuffed with the lamb, chicken, and Korean kimchi fillings we prepared as a team. “Why make it if you can buy it?” is Jo’s mantra. This gave us enough time to learn how to make a tasty filling with a good structure and how to cook our dumplings in a variety of ways – steamed, cooked, and even fried to produce “snowflake” potstickers with a delicate crust on the bottom.
The best part? With every iteration of dumpling, we got to the final product and each was delicious: plump, flavoursome, and juicy, without falling apart.
Getting ready to tuck in. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

As you’ll learn in this class, “dumplings wait for no one” and they’re best enjoyed piping hot and fresh from the steamer, pot, or pan in the company of the fellow students who join on the day (or night). Some really know their stuff, others are novices, and some are there just for the fun. Either way, this class is accessible to all levels of cookery finesse and at some point, you will get in on the action.

Jo also makes and stocks a variety of condiments, pickles, and seasonings that you can sample with your numerous plates of food. It makes enjoying authentic kimchi at home as easy as grabbing a bottle on your way out, along with any tools or treats you want to take to your kitchen for when you try out your latest skill.
Presenting our proud creations. Photo: Rany Jo.
Jo’s classes can be booked for private groups, or you can join a group cooking class. She’s also tailored many of her classes to accommodate vegan, halaal, shellfish-free, and low-gluten diets. Who knew vegan Korean Fried Chicken is a thing?

Whether you’re looking for a fun date night idea, want to venture out on a solo mission to sharpen your culinary skills, need something fresh for your friendship circle, or are constantly disappointed by flimsy, bland dumplings in the restaurants you frequent, this is the class for you. Because why? As our group of 10 concluded at the end of the class, “Life’s too short to eat shit dumplings."

Her classes start from R895 p.p. (all-inclusive) and the upcoming class schedules can be found on her website.


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