The Dumpling Sisters - two Chinese Kiwi cooks who have won praise from Jamie Oliver
Amy and Julie Zhang love sharing their fondness for Chinese cooking with the world
Amy and Julie Zhang are “Chiwis” – Chinese Kiwis whose parents immigrated to New Zealand from Guangzhou. The sisters now study in the UK and are primed for success, and Amy has completed a PhD in chemistry from Cambridge University and Julie a masters in criminology at Oxford.
But beyond their interest in science and psychology, Amy and Julie have another love – a passion for food that has inspired their own online cooking show.
“It’s not blood that runs in our veins, it’s soy sauce,” the girls proudly proclaim on the website for the popular YouTube show they started in May 2013, aptly named The Dumpling Sisters.
The programme, shot and edited by the girls themselves, has generated a healthy buzz among internet foodies since its launch. And while The Dumpling Sisters already have a respectable following, the girls may be on their way to internet superstardom after becoming finalists in a contest sponsored by famous English TV chef Jamie Oliver to find the next guest stars for his award-winning Food Tube channel on YouTube.
“It’s no surprise that we were pretty darn excited when we heard about a new competition being run by Jamie Oliver,” Amy and Julie wrote on their site. “The brief to YouTubers all over the world was simple: create a short video recipe featuring rice, and we happen to love rice!”
The sister’s entry to the competition, which received more than 250 entries from around the globe, was a recipe for "iceberg parcels with fried rice, boozy Hoisin chicken and no-cook satay sauce" – a dish that combined influences from both Chinese and Western culinary traditions.
“Doing a Chinese dish for the competition was a no brainer... It’s the cuisine that we know and love the best, and we’re proud to share [it] with the world,” the girls said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “It has been so rewarding to see comments on the video like ‘thanks for making Chinese food easy!’ and ‘I didn’t realise before watching this video that I really needed to know how to make a good fried rice.’”
Amy and Julie’s appreciation for Chinese food was fostered by their parents, who have operated a food stall in New Zealand for over 20 years.
“Mum and dad work together as a team,” Julie said. “Dad makes the dough for pork buns…while mum makes the filling and wraps them up for steaming. Seeing them work together like this our whole lives has definitely inspired us to work as a team … For us, Chinese food is tightly linked to family and sharing.”
The Dumpling Sisters, who both speak Cantonese, have been heavily influenced by time spent in Hong Kong. On trips to see members of their extended family in the city, the girls have indulged themselves with egg custard tarts and claypot rice, and have a special fondness for eating “super fresh seafood straight from the sea [and] meats sliced impossibly thin” at hotpot restaurants.
“The atmosphere in Hong Kong restaurants is all a part of the experience,” Amy said. “There’s such an incredible buzz, with everyone talking on top of each other and catching up on the latest family gossip. We also have fond memories of granddad getting up early to hold a table for us while we slept in.”
The girls added that yum cha in New Zealand's Chinese restaurants is “nowhere near as good as what you find in Hong Kong.”
Amy and Julie’s Chinese inspiration seems to have paid-off and has won praise from Oliver himself. The world renowned chef called the girl’s fried rice recipe a “delicious meal,” and followers of the online contest seem to agree. The Dumpling Sisters’ video has received over 4,000 likes on YouTube, and Amy and Julie are among the final five contestants in the competition. They will win feature spots on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel if they receive the most likes by Sunday, September 22.
The Dumpling Sisters are cautiously enthusiastic about their chances of winning the competition, but completely optimistic about their decision to continue sharing their cooking with the world.
“We hope our recipe is able to increase awareness of [our] culture,” the girls said. “[After all], our Chinese heritage and upbringing inspires us … The Dumpling Sisters is all about sharing our love of Chinese food with others.”