Many of you will know Bee Yinn Low, the author behind the ‘Rasa Malaysia’ website, and of the ‘Easy Chinese Recipes’ book. We thought we’d catch up with her and throw some questions her way. And who knows, she might send some delicious Kway/Kuei back our way!
Have you always been into cooking?
Well, the answer is both yes and no. Yes because I grew up in a family of great cooks, and I loved watching my late grandmother and late mother, as well as my aunt preparing our family meals, and festive meals when I was growing up. Their cooking mesmerized me. Not because living overseas and running a food blog, I secretly wished that someone would cook for me so I don’t have to.
Are you an experimenter, or a formula type of cook?
I am an experimenter. If you ask me to cook a same dish, the recipe would probably be different every time.
The Rasa Malaysia website is incredibly popular. What made you set it up?
I started Rasa Malaysia in 2006 as a channel to document my family’s recipes. I have never thought it would become what it is today.
Your cookbook is the top Chinese recipe book in the US. How did you achieve that?
Easy Chinese Recipes, as the title suggests. Most Americans are very sceptical of making Chinese dishes at home because no one has actually demystified Chinese cuisine for them. I have a very comprehensive ingredients chapter with photo of each ingredient, plus tips and techniques for successful Chinese home cooking, all written in a very simple and easy-to-digest English. A color photo for every single recipe in the cookbook certainly helps, too.
We have to ask … what’s your favourite dish?
My favourite dish…it’s a tough question. Depending on when you ask me, the answer might be different depending on my craving at that particular point in time. Generally, my favourite dish is ones with lots of seafood, and it can be from any cuisine!
What’s your least favourite dish – what would you struggle with even if it’s the last meal left on earth!
A dish with animal offal in it.
We’ve seen lots of evidence of your travels on your site. Where are the favourite places you’ve been?
My favourite region in the whole world is Southeast Asia. Other than Penang ( my hometown), my favourite place is definitely Bali. I would love to have a place there someday!
You have literally tens of thousands of followers on social media (and over half a million on Google+!) Has that changed the way you share what you do with the world?
Definitely. I like to share worthy photos/stories of the dishes I eat, places I go to, etc. with my fans and followers.
Your Pinterest site is amazing – gorgeously photographed images of the most delicious food imaginable. They call that ‘food porn’ back in the UK . How did you manage to get such wonderful photography to capture your dishes? Some of the photos literally look good enough to eat!
You would be surprised if I tell you that I shoot with a P mode on my professional Canon 5D Mark II. I have never attempted the M (manual) mode because it’s too complicated for me. The secret ingredient is natural lights, keen eyes in composition and styling, and a little post processing does the work.
You really do seem to cook a wide variety of Asian styles (and even western too). How has this come about?
Rasa Malaysia started out with exclusively Malaysian food, but after a while, I realized that I would exhaust all the Malaysian recipes if I don’t expand to other Asian cuisines. The good news is that I do know how to cook other Asian foods, and western too. So now my site encompasses a wide spectrum of Asian cooking, western cooking, as well as baking. It’s fun.
How did you learn to cook?
I learned by observing my late grandmother and late mother, as well as my aunt while they were cooking. The proper process, sequences, and techniques had been tried and tested, and then handed down from person to person.
How did you end up living in the US?
I came here for my Master’s Degree. Upon graduation, by luck, I won the green card lottery and decided to work and save money before moving back. But time passes by and I am still here…
Do you miss Malaysia? I get the impression that Penang is somewhere close to your heart?
Yes, I miss Penang a lot. It’s my home and the place that I will always call home. I can’t wait for the day when I move back to Penang for good.
I heard you used to work for MySpace? How did you end up in the cooking world rather than the corporate one?
Yes, I was the Director of International Development in the International division of MySpace, when we dominated social media. Rasa Malaysia was just a hobby. Somehow my hobby turned into something very meaningful and fruitful and I decided to go full time with it.
Ok, I’m tempting fate here – what do you think of the Singapore vs Malaysia food thing? What do you think of Singaporean food?
This is a sensitive topic but I will say that when it comes to street food, I think Malaysia reigns supreme in terms of quantity, quality and variety…it’s evident in the plane loads of Singaporeans descending into Malaysia airports every weekend. However, Singapore does offer much better dining options and restaurants, for example: fine dining that you simply can’t get in Malaysia.
Favourite TV chef?
What’s your life beyond cooking …. do you have time for hobbies?
Traveling, yes, I always have time for traveling.
So if there was a magic wand, what would you have love to have been in this life?
I think I would love to have been a heiress or a princess.