Why I Write About Food 000: Christine Leong of Vermilion Roots

After answering the question "Why have I started writing about food?" in a reflective post (which you can read here), I decided to start a Q&A series to ask my favorite food bloggers the same question. I'll begin this series by sharing my own journey and how I came to write about food. 

Tell us about Vermilion Roots. 
I started Vermilion Roots after I moved out of Southeast Asia to document my food adventures eating and cooking in California, where I now call home. Through this blog and the connections it enables, I've been able to explore food from other cultures, revisit some recipes from my own heritage, and even adapt them using local, seasonal ingredients. The mixture of my love for cooking, homesickness and curiosity often results in fusion recipes like Corn Pancakes with Apam Balik Toppings, where the pancake I used to have in Malaysia and the pancake I now have in the US come together on a plate. A lot of the recipes I share on Vermilion Roots have an Asian twist. 

Why do you write about food?
After I left everything I know to move to a new country, it seemed like I had to reset myself and relearn everything from scratch. It was at that point when I felt the need for something both familiar and universal, and I found it through the articulation of food. It has become a safe and inspiring intersection for the meeting of my old and new voices. From writing about food, I've gained new perspectives about myself and the world around me. 

What are you currently reading?
I like how food stories give you a glimpse into a person's inner and outer lives, and find myself drawn to food books, cookbooks and food blogs that have a strong personal voice. I am currently reading Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone and Molly Wizenberg's Delancy, and cooking from Heidi Swanson's Near & Far and Alana Chernila's The Homemade Kitchen. I always carry a magazine with me wherever I go and the amusing stories found in Lucky Peach have provided both entertainment and knowledge whenever an idle moment needs rescuing. 

What is the most useful cooking tip you've learned?
I realise now that a lot of my cooking inclinations come from growing up in my dad's restaurant and watching him cook. He has never been one to give me firm instructions for any recipes, but ingrained in me the concept of intuitive cooking, which can be summed up by the Malay word often heard in a Malaysian kitchen: "agak-agak", loosely translated as "estimate". This approach to cooking has equipped me with a fearless and inquisitive attitude towards new ingredients, and taught me to be resourceful and self-reliant in any kitchen.

What's your favorite recipe on Vermilion Roots?
Every recipe is special to me in the way they represent the different moments in my life, but if I have to pick a favorite, it would have to be kaya, a popular jam in Malaysia made with coconut milk, eggs, palm sugar and pandan leaves. Kaya is the taste of my childhood and my home country, and is one of the first things I learned to cook when I was young. In a way, it's my comfort food. 

Visit Christine's website at www.vermilionroots.com
Recommended Recipes:

Corn Pancakes with Apam Balik Toppings
Kaya (Coconut Egg Jam)

Long Bean Stir-Fry with Tofu and Brown Rice Noodles