Happy Monday! Welcome to the first post of the new "Meet My Inspiration" blog series! I'm stoked to get this out of the gate with some great bloggers on board! I've been wanting to get to know more about the people behind some of my favorite food blogs, and I'd be selfish if I didn't share those stories with you! I feel so fortunate to receive such supportive response from the food bloggers who I admire everyday - you guys rock!
I'm a craftsman, and most food bloggers are too. I love coming across bloggers who value their work the same way. Blogging is not hard, and people blog just about anything. However, to be a decent blogger who can run the whole show (and can make a living out of it) is a marathon away from easy.
When I started this blog, I didn't know what I wanted to focus on. I would just browse around and pick up ideas here and there. I knew I wanted to cook, and wanted the blog to be a recipe food blog. After the first year of exploring, I discovered a blog that pretty much read my mind. I was immediately hooked onto everything that the family behind The Woks of Life was posting. I was so excited to come across such an amazing blog that covers Authentic Chinese cooking, I was doing the happy dance.
I'm so honored to be featuring The Woks of Life to kick-start this blog series. This family of four - Bill, Judy, Sarah, and Kaitlin - blogs between the U.S. and China/Beijing, and their passion for food is extraordinary. They post the most amazing recipes like Xiao Long Bao (小笼包) or shanghai soup dumplings, carrot ginger pork buns, two ways, Beijing's favorite Yangrou Chuan (羊肉串) or spicy Beijing lamb skewers, and Cantonese wonton noodle soup which I swear I can eat EVERYDAY.
Thank you Sarah over at The Woks of Life for contributing in this blog series, I could not ask for a better food blogger to kick-start this series with!
Make sure you subscribe to my mailing list to get more of this series right into your inbox in the coming weeks! (Sign up form is on the sidebar or towards the bottom of the page if you're on a smaller screen).
Now, here's the behind the scenes talk with Sarah!
1: It's great and unique to see that the whole family blogs on the same platform. Who particularly in the family started the idea of a food blog? Were Bill and Judy on board right away?
We’d actually been thinking about starting a food blog for a long time—it’s always been an idea that we’ve tossed around. There were just so many recipes that we all wanted to share, especially some of the more traditional Chinese stuff that Kaitlin and I wanted to learn how to make from our parents. We wanted to create a digital record of all the recipes we’ve enjoyed growing up, as well as new ones that we created.
But my sister and I were in school, battling midterms and coffee addiction, and my parents were working as well (they’re pretty coffee-addicted themselves, actually). Finally, I was out of school and between jobs, and I started looking into what it would take to get set up on Wordpress. Everyone was definitely on board from the get-go. It was all uphill (with a really steep learning curve) from there!
2: What was the first post/recipe that you guys published on The Woks of Life? (no peeking!)
It was a recipe called "Simple Spicy Pan-Fried Noodles." I remember it like it was yesterday… (cue dreamy harp music).
3: If you have to pick 5 words to describe your blog, what would they be?
Hmm. Probably, idiosyncratic (Shanghai Braised Pork Belly one day, Roasted Ratatouille Pasta the next…), anecdotal (not sure if this can be an adjective to describe a blog, but we do love our anecdotes), multi-cultural (too obvious?), diverse (four bloggers, one blog), and informative (lots of information for cooks who aren’t too familiar with Asian cooking!)
4. What's your weekend routine like? Food shopping in the morning? Cooking and shooting dishes at a certain time before the sun goes down?
Oh man. You pretty much hit it right on the head. We do indeed have a weekend routine. Usually Saturday is a relaxed day for recharging after a long week, and Sunday is our cooking day. We’re not always this organized, but when we’re really on the ball, we’ll strategize and announce what everyone plans to accomplish. If we don’t already have all the ingredients we need, we’ll go food shopping early, and then each of us will work on our respective dishes. I’m the crazed fool with the camera running around, yelling about how we’re losing daylight. I really haven’t figured out how to use the artificial lighting set-up we bought a few months ago. It’s still on my to-do list.
When we’re all together, Kaitlin participates in the craziness, but if she’s at school, she has her own routine, which is cooking between classes or at night.
5. I LOVE the name "The Woks of Life". I think it represents the blog really well. Just how did the name come about?
I thought of it literally JUST after I woke up one morning. It must have come to me in a dream...
6. From a food perspective, what are some pros and cons for living in the U.S. vs China/Beijing?
In the U.S., the quality of the beef is definitely better. It seems weird to mention that first, but you just can’t get a decent steak in Beijing. Most of the expensive stuff is imported from Australia, but it doesn’t taste quite the same. Asian cooking doesn’t usually involve cooking big hunks of meat anyway, so it’s more of an American complaint.
Though Beijing actually has a lot of variety (you can get Indian, Mexican, German, French, Vietnamese, Thai, etc.) since there are so many expats, it can be hard to find the perfect burrito or bowl of pasta there (if you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg). That’s why we cook a lot. The good thing about Beijing, though, is that you can find a lot of imported ingredients, so if you can cook it, you can have it.
Of course, there are so many pro’s about eating in China, I don’t even know where to start. The hot pot is amazing, noodles are EVERYWHERE, you can get Shanghai soup dumplings any time you want, there are high quality restaurants in every shopping mall (the food courts are so much better that they are in the US, and the top four floors of the mall could be dedicated solely to restaurants). Everyone cares about food and has pretty high standards. To top it all off, a lot of restaurants are cheap enough so you can have an amazing meal at a restaurant every day of the week if you want. It’s the best thing about living in China, in my humble, heavily biased opinion.
7: Who usually does the food photography? Mind to share what kind of camera and lenses are used in most of the recipe posts?
Kaitlin does the photography for her posts usually, and I do the rest. Kaitlin uses an old Canon Rebel T3i with a kit lens, and I’m using a Nikon D3200. I used to use the kit lens as well, but a few months ago, I bought a 35 mm f/1.8 lens, and I LOVE it for food photography. A lot of people use a 55mm lens, but it’s double the price, and I don’t think the focal length is ideal for my kitchen, where I don’t have a lot of room to stand really far back from the food.
8. What're the most challenging things about food blogging?
I would probably say it's all the administrative stuff that goes along with blogging. Maintaining a relatively strict posting schedule (we’re usually posting every other day), keeping up with social media, and making sure the site is running smoothly and is optimized for search and site speed. It’s a full-time job, so luckily the work is divided amongst the four of us.
9: What would you eat as a treat to lighten up a rough day?
Too many choices to name. Right now, I’m feeling rice and beans. And carnitas. And guacamole.
Or a big bowl of noodle soup. I could always go for that.
10. We'll end with some food blogging love. Any blogs or bloggers who you admire yourself?
My obsession with food blogging started with Pioneer Woman, a long time ago. I also really admire Lady and Pups, for her unique, brilliant recipes and gorgeous photography. Food Opera, which is a blog written by two sisters, is also great. It has a familial spirit similar to The Woks of Life.
Half Baked Harvest is amazing, and Mimi Thorisson’s Blog Manger is a great escape from your life if you don’t happen to be living in the verdant French countryside at the moment. I also met Maggie from Omnivore’s Cookbook in Beijing, and we had dinner and talked blogging. She’s awesome!
Of course, we love Saucy Spatula for the Asian inspiration. Your Hong Kong Style Curry Beef Brisket looks incredible—I think I mentioned this when I was geeking out in the comments, but it was what I’d order every time we stopped at Noodletown in NYC Chinatown, so it brings back memories.
(Photo Credit: The Woks of Life Lanzhou Beef Noodle Soup)