Interview: Bee Yinn Low of Rasa Malaysia
Since Bee Yinn Low launched Rasa Malaysia in July 2006, it’s become THE go-to site for Asian recipes—from Malaysian to Thai, Sichuan, Korean and more. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, however; after all, with more than 400 recipes (and counting), it’s the biggest independent Asian recipes site on the Web–recently featured in Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia. So how did a humble food blog, which Bee began simply with the intention of documenting and sharing her mother’s recipes, make it to the big leagues? Besides the sheer volume of recipes, Rasa Malaysia features professional-grade (read: majorly droolworthy) food photos and the secret sauce in any big-time bloggers’ arsenal: great content—in Bee’s case, popular, recognizable restaurant-style recipes made easy enough for the home cook to tackle. In July 2011, Bee launched a second site, Gourmand Recipes, with fellow food blogger Ellie Hoeve of Almost Bourdain, branching out into all types of cuisines, but keeping the focus on simple dishes (and restaurant favorites) that home cooks can recreate at their leisure.
Fast-forward to present day: from her home base in Irvine, CA, Bee’s been hard at work on conceptualizing, developing and testing the recipes for her latest project: her first cookbook, out this week. Read on for the scoop—you don’t want to miss it. (Seriously, the recipes read like the favorite dishes at your beloved Chinese restaurant. Awesome.) Below, Bee shares some behind-the-scenes insights into her world.
Give us the quick version of how you got to where you are now.
I started Rasa Malaysia in 2006. I wanted to document my family’s recipes. Rasa Malaysia soon became very popular and my recipes were featured in major US media. With press mentions, I thrived and resolved to improve myself in food styling, photography and recipe development. Everything you see on Rasa Malaysia is self-taught; I am very lucky to have keen eyes when it comes to food styling and photography.
What’s your philosophy as a cook?
Cooking is an art, so let your senses guide you and don’t be afraid to experiment.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of a food-focused career?
I get to eat very good food every day and never have to feel guilty about it.
What have you accomplished that you’re most proud of?
I am very proud that many families are eating better and healthier every day because of the recipes I share on Rasa Malaysia.
Which celebrity foodie would you love to meet and why?
Anthony Bourdain. I want to take him and his “No Reservations” crew to my hometown (Penang, Malaysia)—the street food mecca of Asia—to eat.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Checking my emails, approving blog comments, writing a post in the morning; cooking, styling and shooting for Rasa Malaysia in the afternoon; hanging out on social media (Facebook and Twitter) in the evening.
What are some of your favorite local restaurants? Any tips on what to order?
I love Japanese izakaya and my favorites are Honda-ya in Tustin and Shinsengumi in Fountain Valley. I love the yakitori at these two restaurants! I also can’t do without the breads and pastries at 85C Bakery Café, a Taiwanese bakery chain. Their brioche is to die for.
What advice would you give to aspiring food bloggers?
Content is KING. Produce top-notch content and readers will come.
Your photography is incredible. Any tips for food photographers who are looking to improve?
Natural light is the secret ingredient to great photography. Find a place in your home that has the best natural light. Invest in a DSLR and a good lens, study stock photography and food magazines for food styling and photography ideas, and buy some good props.
What’s a typical weeknight meal at your house?
Steamed rice, a meat dish, a vegetable or seafood dish, and a pot of nourishing Chinese soup!
Is there anything you can’t cook?
I can’t bake.
What did you do before Rasa Malaysia? Have you always worked in food?
I was the Director of International Development for Fox/News Corp. I traveled the world building business relationships and helped launched new businesses in the APAC region, mostly China.
How did you become a recipe developer?
I started working on Rasa Malaysia full time two years ago. Other than content publishing, I also decided to focus on professional recipe development because it’s so much fun working on new and delicious recipes!
Tell us about your latest project – your first book!
“Easy Chinese Recipes: Family Favorites from Dim Sum to Kung Pao” is the name of my first cookbook. The book is a compilation of 80+ popular Chinese recipes: all-time favorites, Chinatown classics, dim sum, dumplings, and more!
The cookbook is full color; each recipe comes with a photo (styled and photographed by me) and many of them have step-by-step picture guide. As the title suggests, the book is all about demystifying Chinese cooking. If you love Chinese food and wish to learn about Chinese cooking, you ought to have a copy of the cookbook as the recipes are easy and deliver amazingly delicious result. The book will be available at bookstores on September 10, 2011. It’s also available on Amazon.
Some of the recipes featured in the cookbook are: Tasty Lettuce Wraps, Honey Walnut Shrimp, Pot Stickers, Yangzhou Fried Rice and Chinese takeout favorites like Simple Egg Drop Soup, Kung Pao Chicken and Beef with Broccoli. There are also authentic Chinatown favorites such as siu mai (steamed pork dumpling), shrimp dumpling, Cantonese BBQ pork (char siu), roast duck, egg tarts and more!
What’s next for you?
I hope to work on a second cookbook soon.