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Foodie Friday: Cooking in the Capital

By Hollie James on July 25, 2014

Everyone who’s anyone knows that cooking can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Some of us find joy in deviating from the recipe, mixing this with that and finding out for ourselves what works best. Others are just clearly magically blessed with the ability to find and follow different amazing recipes, resulting in abundant new and exotic flavors and dishes.

In my household there’s a little agreement: I do not cook – I clean. For myself, it’s the lesser of two evils. But, I think I’ve found a niche when it comes to cooking that I can work with. If I take a cooking class, along with a friend or family member there for support of course, I can absorb everything possible, do my best to remember something (anything), and then excel in a one night cooking takeover. With pad thai and steamed mussels on the brain, here are a couple of local cooking classes I’ve recently had the pleasure to attend.

Ottawa Chinese Cooking Studio – Thai Cuisine

Here, the boss is Huanmei. Or you can call her Nancy. The dishes to be made together over the 3 hour evening included hot and sour coconut soup, spring rolls, pad thai, chicken cashew, and curry beef. Throughout the communal style class (with some people chopping this, and others mixing the sauce for that), Huanmei offers tons of home grown secrets, tips, and tricks to add to your repertoire.

Result: The pad thai (and everything else for that matter) was fresh, authentic (no ketchup!), and delectable. If you’re not as keen as me on making this dish, or you’re the only person in the entire world who doesn’t like spring rolls, they offer many other Asian cooking classes, all between two locations.

The Ottawa Chinese Cooking Studio’s classes take place at The Studio (211 Black Sage Crescent) and Mancion’s Independent Grocer (865 River Road). Classes are also available at students’ homes. Click here for a full class schedule.

LCBO – Refined Kerala Cuisine

Left: Reined Kerala Cuisine with Wine Pairings. Right: Steamed Mussels in Exotic Sauce.

Left: Reined Kerala Cuisine with Wine Pairings. Right: Steamed Mussels in Exotic Sauce.


Refined is surely the key word to describe this cooking class. It’s held at the LCBO at 275 Rideau St. in their events room, where the teacher just so happened to be the executive chef and owner from one of my favorite Indian restaurants, Coconut Lagoon.

He took us on a journey through the art of making steamed mussels in exotic sauce, beans thoran, chicken nigiri (chicken cooked in spicy herb sauce), and mango lassi. The class is offered through the liquor store, so it was no surprise that there were three different wine pairings, as well as snacks of papadums (the simplest thing to make), and bread to cleanse the palette. I especially loved how authentic the class was, as Joe Thottungal hails from Kerala in Southern India. Much like The Chinese Cooking Studio, here they offer tons of very different classes to excite even the most sophisticated palette.

This is only the beginning to my cooking class participation in Ottawa, and it’s already taught me that it’s something anyone can do, in some way or another. Looking ahead to the dinner parties I plan to host, it’s become clear that I certainly do have some skills, they’re just hidden under that apron I never use.

Hollie Davies lives in Wellington West with her boyfriend, wishes they owned Mog (the cutest outdoor cat on the block), is trying her hand here at immersion journalism, and is loving every minute of it in this gorgeous city called Ottawa. Catch up with her on twitter.