Tell us a bit about your background: what is your family history and where would you call home?
My mother’s side of the family came from the lesser-known region of Yunlin in Taiwan and the whole family moved to Taipei during childhood. My father’s side of the family are from Hong Kong, lineage can be traced back to Xiqiao, Guangdong. Hong Kong is home for me, it is where I was born, grew up and partly spent my schooling year there.
What does home taste like?
The home of Mama Chen’s cooking is predominantly Cantonese homage to laborious double boiled soup, simple steamed fish with ginger and spring onion, silky poached chicken, cloud like steamed egg, stir fried greens. Congee was a frequent guest on the table during the poorly days.
Did you learn to cook back home?
I always observed the kitchen as a kid, but never took too much interest in eating food. It wasn’t until going to university, where cooking and baking became a passion. The smile on the faces of dinner parties brought me joy and invaluable experiences.
For Mama Chen, she didn't have much of a chance of being in the kitchen as a kid. Only when the family started growing bigger, the kitchen became a necessity. Interest in cooking grew after moving to Hong Kong from Taipei, especially when the kids were at school with the daytime television broadcasting the famous Lisa Fong’s cookery shows which developed the passion in creating more delicious food for the family.
What motivated you to make Mama Chen's kitchen?
Mama Chen’s kitchen was created when the demand of festivative dishes grew beyond just family and friends. Especially with the pandemic, people were not able to go back to their homeland thus we wanted to recreate the taste of home even when away from home and to carry on the Chinese culture.
Tell us more about this experience of working with mom/daughter
As a team of mother and daughter, this has brought the relationship closer. It was a fun experience learning from my mother, in a way we have gotten to know each other more as I haven’t lived with the family for such a long extensive period for a long long time.
Has being delivery-based influenced the way you cook?
Yes, for developmental and research purposes it has. Convenience and accessibility are what we crave for during busy hours, meal prepping became very handy. Otherwise we are always on the trial of new dishes.
Your instagram is very interesting, the posts are like a menu. One can see both illustrations and photos of the dish.
Mama Chen’s Kitchen is about the traditional Chinese delicacies and festivals, through the illustrations and calligraphy we wanted to stay in focus in the integrity of Chinese culture by staying in the old school era.
Who is your audience? Is it mainly the Asian population or are there also UK/western buyers?
Even though we are trying to introduce ourselves to the world, the majority of the audiences have been from Asia.
What are your future plans with this IG kitchen? Will you move it off-line?
Future plan is to expand the kitchen and to set up a production line, maybe one day you can find us on the shelves of the British supermarkets.
What's in your fridge?
A lot of jars and bottles of sauces from around the world. Meal prep of a lot Korean style banchan small dishes to last throughout the busy week ahead.
What is the most important cooking ingredient?
A good quality soy sauce, the secret behind all Chinese cooking.
Secret cooking tips! - how to make perfect savoury zongzi?
Make sure to over season the food, whenever making a big batch of food it is very easy to hold back on the seasoning and thus the food ends up being bland.
Your favourite Chinese restaurants in the UK?
Park Chinios in Mayfair, they have a few luxurious classic Cantonese dishes that cannot be found anywhere else in the British isles. Their dim sum is also a top notch in the UK, in fact one of the best. Dim sum is in the soul of every Cantonese person, with the “one bowl with two pieces” term imprinted into our Hong Kong tea culture.