After Norma Chu bites into the xiao long bao and then the steamed assorted seafood dumpling with Champagne sauce, she is quietly contemplative for a moment, then remarks, “This is really good.”
The xiao long bao is a favourite at newly opened The Chin’s on Stanley Street in Central, and the dumpling is a signature dish with a modern fusion twist.
The Chin’s boasts a beautiful interior décor featuring minimal lines complemented by multiple shades of turquoise and blue and wooden accents. The effect is modern, sleek and refined.
The menu, created by chef Ringo Chow, previously of China Tang, features dishes that are traditional Cantonese supplemented by regional dishes, but with modern twists - such as dumplings which have been injected with Champagne before they are steamed, to enhance the seafood flavour and fragrance.
The décor suits Chu, founder of online recipe hub Day Day Cook, who found success by taking traditional recipes online.
Day Day Cook is best known for its bite-sized bilingual cooking-made-easy videos, which won legions of fans in Hong Kong and China via its Facebook page, YouTube channel, website and app. According to Chu, Day Day Cook regularly hits 200 million to 250 million views per month in China, and its app has been downloaded around 1.6 million times.
Our next dishes are pan-fried bun with truffle and assorted mushrooms and the marinated pigeon with Huadiao wine. The buns come decorated with a pattern of chocolate shaped to resemble a mushroom cap. But it is the pigeon - marinated using 25-year-old Huadiao wine and rose wine, and fermented in yeast the chef himself has made - that captivates Chu.
“You can taste the wine but it’s much sweeter than usual,” she says. “I want to give this a try [at home] because it tastes almost completely different.”
Chu first realised that Day Day Cook had the potential to grow into something bigger when Lee Kum Kee came knocking on her online door in 2013, looking to collaborate.
“That was our first try at doing [our] branded content,” she says. “Back then I think a lot of people didn’t find [our approach] a viable way to do advertising online, because they thought it was too [much of a] hard sell. But I think we sort of made it work, because the way we design the recipes actually showcases the products [in ways that they are] regularly used.”
Since then, Day Day Cook has had multiple collaborations with leading food and beverages companies, including Kraft, San Remo and Kellogg’s, to name just a few.
Our next round of dishes includes soft-boiled duck egg with caviar, barbecued Kagoshima Chami pork, steamed fresh crab claw with winter melon, and rice in supreme soup with pumpkin and fresh abalone.
The crab claw quickly stands out as Chu’s favourite dish of the day.
“[It’s] a very traditional Cantonese [dish]. Not a lot of places make it any more and it’s a very delicate dish to make - it’s actually a lot of work even though it looks so simple, especially with the winter melon sitting on the bottom,” she says. “I think [it’s the dish] that stands out for me. It’s simple yet it tastes very refined.”
It is an understatement to say she has come a long way since quitting a career as head of equities research at HSBC to focus on building her own business - an idea which originated as a weekend passion project. The company now has two branches, one in Shanghai, with 72 employees, and one in Hong Kong, with around 20 employees.
“I think I saw an opportunity in the market when I couldn’t find quality content, and I thought I should be the one to try [to produce such content],” she explains. “And I think [doing this suits] my personality - I don’t want to live with regrets.”
Chu’s role has also evolved. She is now more likely to be seen managing the business and fundraising for Day Day Cook, while her team takes care of creating the online content, growing the hub’s user base and developing the app.
And it’s paying off. Last year, Chu and her team raised US$10 million from two successful rounds of fundraising, and also made key new hires to help develop the business - including a chief technology officer to develop the app.
“[Our] book gets bigger and bigger each day,” she says with a laugh.
This year, she hopes to grow the company by a factor of 10 and to enlarge the user base to 100 million active viewers per month. “We’ve just started monetisation [of Day Day Cook] in China and it’s growing very fast,” she says, revealing that the company just recently started selling ads. “And just through the contracts we signed in January alone, we’ve already exceeded sales [for the whole of] last year.”
We end the meal with chilled sago cream with pomelo and mango, another traditional Cantonese dish.
“Recently I’ve been craving mango sago in the middle of the night,” she confides. “I don’t really like sweet stuff [but] mango desserts tend to be more citrusy.”
This article was originally published in Good Eating