Nana Chan, also known in the blogging and YouTube circuit as “NanaMoose”, is a lawyer-turned-blogger and food writer here in Hong Kong. She traded her power suits and legalese for the wonderful flavors, textures and smells of Chinese cooking, and now stars in her own YouTube cooking show with fellow HK blogger Josh Tse, aka Cha Xiu Bao. “Wok With Nana” features recipes for different Chinese dishes, including her famous Taiwanese beef noodles. But that’s not the only thing she has up her sleeve.
One sunny afternoon, I sat down with Nana on her roofdeck, with a view of downtown Hong Kong skyscrapers framed against Victoria Harbour. Amid the mouthwatering smell of her Taiwanese beef noodles and the honey-and-red-date milk tea she demonstrated for our PeopleStyle readers, our talk turns to her love for the good things in life and paying homage to her Chinese heritage.
Tell us what started “Wok With Nana”.
Aside from being food bloggers, both Josh Tse and I have previously worked with foreign chefs, like Anthony Bourdain and Kylie Kwong for their TV show episodes that focused on Chinese cooking. However, we both realized that there were no cooking shows in English about authentic Chinese food. With my love for cooking and Josh’s skill in photography and filming, we thought of putting together a Chinese cooking show on YouTube. We started last August 2010 and made 10 episodes so far. We’re starting small but we’ve been getting good feedback from people so far so we’d like to continue this.
I imagine food was a very big part of your growing-up years, as most Asian cultures are centered around food in general. Can you share with us any of your favorite food memories?
I remember that we always had a lot of food at home. My mom cooks every single day and she’s such a great cook that I think we became really picky eaters because we were spoiled by all that good food. There was always fresh soup, afternoon tea at five and we’d have desserts afterwards. However, my favorite food memory would have to be my maternal grandmother’s Shanghainese dish called Lion’s Head Dumplings. Hers was the meatball variety and it was her signature dish. I’ve made it many times but of course, I still think my grandma’s version is the best!
Was there a pivotal moment in your life that made you decide to switch from being a lawyer to blogging about and cooking Chinese food?
My love for food and cooking has always been there, ever since I started cooking while at boarding school. Here in Hong Kong, there is so much society and family pressure to go down that route of being a lawyer, banker or doctor, joining the rat race, etc. I took an MBA course a few years ago to buy myself sometime before making this huge change in my life. I have to admit, my income now is very far from what I used to make as a lawyer but I’m very lucky that my family has supported my decision. I have never been happier, honestly!
Aside from your blogging, writing and “Wok With Nana” show, you’ve also started a pop-up tea stall called “Teakha”. It sounds very new and surprising!
(Laughs) It is! Well, the name “Teakha” is an anagram for ‘HK (Hong Kong) tea’. I went trekking in Nepal and learned that in the Nepalese language, the word for “okay” is “tikcha”. I thought that it sounded quite catchy and cute so when I conceptualized my pop-up tea stall venture, I decided to do a variation of that word.
Why “pop-up”? Because it doesn’t have a permanent location! Outside of Hong Kong, hawker stands, food stalls and food trucks are common but it’s so rigid and regulated here. Teakha stands for spontaneity, good food and a fun experience. My pop-up stall usually runs during the weekends that I’m here in Hong Kong as I often go to Taiwan, too. And the menu is pretty simple: my special tea and home-baked scones plus other goodies. I have about 40 to 50 regulars who now follow me wherever and whenever Teakha “pops up”.
Aside from the obvious food connection, is there a shared philosophy behind all that you do?
I think I’m over that phase of going to Michelin-starred restaurants and now, I’m focusing more on the simpler things like enjoying the whole process of making and savoring my own food. The fact that “Wok With Nana” is on the “small tube” and not on mainstream TV is an advantage. There’s a more intimate feel to it and a better connection to our audience. It’s the same with Teakha – there are no frills to it. It’s mostly a small gathering, punctuated by homemade food and in a ‘spontaneous’ setting so that you create an entire experience that is not only about food.