Lion Brand: Tell us a little about yourself and your background
Cooking with Yen: I was born in Vietnam but my parents escaped to Australia with me when I was 3, as did thousands of other Vietnamese boat people back in the 1970’s, escaping a communist Vietnam and risking their lives for a better life for their children.
So, I am thankful to my parents that I’m here in Perth, talking about myself to you in English and have access to the lifestyle and opportunities that are available to me here in Australia rather than working in a rice field in countryside Vietnam or selling pho on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
My dad told me that when I was old enough to sit on the motorbike he would drive me for sweets every day. When my mum called me to brush my teeth at night I would cry, so I never brushed my teeth as a toddler and I lost all my baby teeth when I was very young. I had no teeth for years until my adult teeth grew out. I believe this is why I lack a sweet tooth, I lost it in my childhood! I never eat desserts so I don’t ever bake or make desserts unless my family have specifically requested it. Pancakes, scones and honey joys is as good as it gets when it comes to desserts for me.
LB: How did you learn to cook? Where do you draw inspiration from now?
CWY: I didn’t cook much in my early 20’s as I was still living at home and my mum spoilt me with her amazing food every night. It wasn’t until I moved out in my mid 20’s that I had to fend and cook for myself. At that point, I realised I needed to learn all of my mum’s Vietnamese dishes. My mum taught me what I know of Vietnamese food and I’m still learning every day.
My Husband is Chinese/Vietnamese so I also learn a lot from my Mother in Law too, who is also an amazing cook.
But have you ever tried to get a recipe out of a Vietnamese Oldie?
It often sounds like this, exact words from my Mum – “You add fish sauce then taste it until it tastes good”
Just the other day I was asking my Mother in Law how to cook one of her glutinous rice dishes so I was asking how much water to add and her answer was “Fill up the water to the level of your third finger knuckle” 😊
It is tough trying to learn recipes but they are part of Vietnamese culture and must be handed down and learnt for future generations.
LB: Any great tips for the kitchen?
CWY: This might sound corny but I still believe this to be true. The most important ingredient in any dish is PASSION or you can describe it as LOVE. If you don’t cook with it, your food will just be edible and plain. Put some passion, love and effort into it and your dish will transform into something special. Why do you think Mum’s cooking is always the BEST? Because she puts LOVE into it.
Here’s one last fact about me -the first food I ever ate was rice porridge. You see a lot of hashtags on Instagram but it is true #riceislife.
Happy Cooking My Friends 😊
Check out Yen’s fantastic IG here