#ChineseFoodiesofIG: Marie, SM Vegan Chefs

Chun Ying Marie Chia,  @smveganchefs   snmvegan.com

Chun Ying Marie Chia, @smveganchefs snmvegan.com

This is part of an ongoing series of interviews I’m doing with my favourite Chinese foodies that I follow on Instagram. Come and follow the #ChineseFoodiesofIG hashtag on Instagram and leave a comment showing your support for these talented folk!

Where are you from? (Where are you really from?)

I was born in Singapore to a Teochew-Singaporean father and French mother. I got to spend several years of my childhood there before my mother moved back to France with my sister and me. I then lived there until I moved to NYC for culinary school in 2012, met my now-life-and-business partner Shane and decided to stay in the US.

Share a food memory:

As a kid, I used to go to ting xie at night. My father would come pick me up and on the way home, he'd often stop the car on the side of the street to buy himself a snack — usually carrot (turnip) cake, pisang goreng (deep fried banana) or a curry puff. These were privileged moments shared just between the two of us in my early life, and some of my first exposures to the intensely flavourful foods cooked outside of the home, by these experienced and skilled vendors.

Rice or noodles?

Although I absolutely adore noodles and eat them every opportunity I get... rice will always be my primary staple food (followed by bread, having also grown up in France).

Favourite Chinese vegetable?

Chye poh! Chinese preserved radish. It's salty, a little sweet, and some are spicy which I love. These chewy yet crunchy umami morsels are incredibly versatile and improve just about any dish.

Who’s your Chinese food legend?

My second aunt, who was always the main cook in the family and has been teaching Shane and me her recipes on our recent visits, which actively strengthens my connection to my heritage (and fuels my pride in being from where I'm from!).

Also, chef Brandon Jew. It's empowering to see a brilliant Chinese American, confident in his identity, open a restaurant right in San Francisco's Chinatown, re-anchoring it as a shining Chinese/Chinese American-led fine dining destination, following the path Cecilia Chang paved in the 60s. 

Like many Asian kids growing up outside of Asia, I was systemically bullied into being ashamed of who I am, and even after I started cooking professionally, it took a while for me to understand I could cook food that was actually my food, and tell my stories, which really are the same food and stories shared by many. With the recent strong rise in popularity of immigrant and first gen chefs proudly cooking from their families' memories and creating their own new flavour and textural languages, I hope today's kids who's school lunch smells different can feel safer, better cared for and surrounded.

What’s in your fridge at home?

Lots of leftovers from a recent recipe testing gig as of right now, along with some mainstays: opened packets of the aforementioned chye poh, preserved black beans, and entirely too many batches of homemade sambals and chili oil.

Sad and lonely wilting cilantro.

Chopsticks or spoon + fork?

Chopsticks and spoon! 

What does Chinese food mean to you?

Chinese food first evocates memories of home. The aromas take me back to growing up in the house my many aunts would live in, where my younger sister and I would spend most of our time along with our cousins. It was a large household and there were always a lot of people around, and everyone would gather around a large round lazy Susan-fitted table to share dinner. To this day, certain smells such as ginger stir frying (or anything reminiscent of Traditional Chinese Medicine) will still stop me in tracks. That feeling of being cared for and surrounded, even away from home, even on a lonely day, is what I hope our food can covey to our patrons.


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