About

Iceland, on way to Jokulsarlon

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Hi there. I’m Betty. Thank you so much for visiting my blog, where I share both recipes and travel stories.

I photograph weddings on the weekend, food during the week, and teach photography workshops here and there. I grew up in California but am now based in Boston, with a stop in the Midwest along the way. I live in a tiny apartment with a tiny kitchen, with a large dog and my dear husband, who is the best recipe-taster and travel partner. I love goat cheese, and I’m obsessed with putting scallions on basically everything.

This blog is not only about food and recipes, but about telling the microstories of making food. What’s the history of this recipe? Is this one of my family recipes, passed down from my grandmother to my mother, and finally to me? Is this a classic Shanghai dish or a twist on a western classic? A lot of emphasis is placed on the final product – justifiably so, as this is what we’ll be eating, but I fell in love with the process of making food. This was how I learned to cook and bake – by trying and failing various techniques, by documenting the process so I could remember how to fold a specific dumpling, by capturing the beauty of the in-between moments, so we can all remember the human involvement that goes into making food. Let’s celebrate food, but also the microstories within. screen-shot-2015-03-20-at-6-18-59-pmWhat can you find on my teeny tiny corner of the Internet?

FOOD
It’s hard to find a couple of words to aptly define the content of my blog. First of all, it’s undergone a pretty major transformation, both stylistically and in focus, from when I first started the blog. The best I can do is tell you that you’ll find unique and authentic recipes developed and tested by yours truly. I love to share my mom’s recipes with my readers, to bring a bit of real Shanghai cuisine to their virtual feast. A lot of my recipes are heavily influenced by my parents. I grew up eating mostly traditional Chinese food. My mom pretty much stuck to the Shanghai cuisine, but my dad liked to mix it up –introduce some Italian elements or something crazy weird that may or may not turn out successfully. White rice was a staple, and after school, I looked forward to the smell of red-braised meat, cold red bean or mung bean soups, dumplings, or egg rolls. Comfort food was soup noodles, wontons, or fatty pork belly.

I started my food blog for a very simple reason: so that I could document my culinary experiences. When I left California for college in the midwest, I began to crave the comfort of my mother’s cooking. On breaks, I badgered my mom to teach me how to cook, often throwing my hands up in frustration when I realized she didn’t cook in measurements but went with instinct. As I packed my luggage, my mom wrapped frozen dumplings, shaomai, and other goods in sandwich bags and stuck them between my clothes for the five-hour flight. Once back in my dorm, all I needed to do was stick them in the microwave and I felt a little more at home. For years, I hesitated to learn how to make my mom’s specialties: What do they say about a magic trick? If you know the method behind one, it can cause the trick to lose its appeal. This didn’t happen – instead, I marveled at how simple her recipes were, and how such basic ingredients can make something so delicious and comforting.

And from there, my blog really started to blossom into what I wanted it to be. The content of my blog is undeniably influenced by my heritage. The ingredients of my childhood consisted of star anise, fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, salted duck eggs, lotus roots, mung beans and red beans, taro, shiitake, enoki, and the list goes on – traditionally “asian” ingredients that you probably cannot find in the corner grocery store. I firmly believe that these “asian” ingredients can have a place in the modern culinary world. In fact, so many wonderfully fusion restaurants are already doing this. What I want to do is show you that you can cook these at home. That pork belly bun that has become so popular in food trucks and restaurants? It’s easier than you think to make an authentic version right in your own home.

I will tell you if a recipe is authentic Chinese or not. Usually when it comes from my mother, I call it authentic. She grew up in Shanghai and learned how to cook there. I feel so grateful that she is willing to teach me how to make Shanghai shao maimochi cakesscallion pancakes, and a whole slieu of authentic Shanghai cuisine. Sprinkled along with authentic Chinese recipes will be my odd experiments and twists on dishes – like these red bean hand piesscallion pancake quesadillas, and matcha cinnamon rolls. Too often, I meet people who think Chinese food consists of kung pao chicken or sweet and sour pork. I am more than happy to burst that bubble and show you more: red-braised pork belly, sticky rice stuffed lotus roots, mouth-numbing sichuan fish floating in a bowl of red hot chili oil, to name a few.

You’ll notice that my blogs are usually 75% photos. I’m a photographer – taking photos of food is half the fun of having a food blog. Transitioning from taking pictures of people to taking pictures of food was challenging, but in the best way. I think I’m still learning my style and adjusting props to fit what I’m looking for. You can see the difference between this and more recently, this. Because Chinese cuisine is something most people are not used to, I try to include process photos as much as possible, especially when it involves a specialized technique such as wrapping shao mai. Sometimes, I put them together to make stop-motion videos, because they’re fun and I love taking on new projects. You can see most of these over on Instagram, and also a tutorial to make your own food stop-motions here. 

TRAVEL

My husband and I, like many other twenty-somethings, caught the travel bug. Ever since we did a few across-the-country road trips (with the purpose of bringing our dog to California from St Louis and then back to Boston) and detoured through Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, the Pacific Northwest, and then down to California bay area, we’ve become thirsty to go and see the world (and explore gorgeous New England!). We have many destinations on our list, but have fun with a few of these: our honeymoon in New ZealandChina + JapanMaineNapa ValleyCalifornia gemsGreece, and most recently, Iceland!!!!
IMG_1813iceland-3Venice Day 2 | bettysliu-4960-famous-tree-at-lake-wanaka-3

WORKSHOPS

I sometimes host workshops on food photography and styling. Teaching is both a privilege and a joy, and I love seeing when students get that “click” moment, when the camera settings start making sense, and they feel comfortable enough to start really styling a scene without worrying too much about the technical side. For more information, feel free to email me at bettysliu07 [at] gmail.com, and see my past workshops here.

Boston Food Photography Workshop | bettysliu.comBoston Food Photography Workshop | bettysliu.comTable Sharing Workshop Recap-61

Gradara Day 3 | bettysliu-31Gradara Day 3 | bettysliu-33

I love hearing from you! If you have any requests, opinions, questions, or just want to say hi, please send me a note at bettysliu07 [at] gmail.com. Or head to the contact form. I’m happy to hear from you.

I’m on InstagramFacebook, and rarely, Pinterest.

Can I work with you?
Absolutely. Send me an email and we can talk.

What camera do you use?
Honestly, this changes. As a wedding photographer, I am always switching around my kit. As of right now, I use a Nikon D750 or Nikon D5 (whichever is handy), with either a 45mm tilt shift or 58 mm 1.4. Now and then you’ll also see our Leica M9 pop up…:)