Norma Chu is the founder of Day Day Cook, a bilingual recipe website that provides videos and step-by-step instructions on how to make Cantonese dishes. She tells Adele Wong about the surprising recipes that get the most hits, and how cooking at home has changed from being a chore to a cool kid activity.
A little background
Norma Chu grew up in Hong Kong and went to school in Seattle, majoring in economics and finance before starting her career at an investment bank. She relocated back to Hong Kong nine years ago to be closer to her family, but after a few more years in private banking, decided to strike out on her own. What she did for fun on the weekends — cooking up dishes and documenting the recipes on a blog — eventually turned into a full-fledged bilingual website with instructional videos and step-by-step guides. Day Day Cook is now syndicated in China, and Chu is about to launch her own ingredient delivery service, among other exciting projects.
How did you come up with the name Day Day Cook?
I remember just lying down on the couch thinking, ‘What kind of domain name can I get?’ And I always thought that one of the strangest things my Hong Kong friends would say to me when they’re speaking in Cantonese is yut yut [“day day” in English]. In Cantonese you would say, Ngaw yiu yut yut jiu fan — which means ‘I need to cook every day.’ So I thought I could use “Day Day Cook” [as a literal translation].
What do people like to cook these days? What are your most popular recipes?
You always think you should do more desserts or cakes because they’re pretty and people like to look at pretty photos, but it’s actually the most traditional and old-school Cantonese dishes that get the most views.
So potatoes stewed with chicken wings — different families would have different recipes but you always eat that when you’re a kid — that recipe has consistently been the most popular for us. And the most classic, tomato scrambled eggs: you would think it’s not an overly complicated recipe but in fact if you’ve always been living at home and now you’re married and you want to cook that for your kids and husband, you do need some kind of guidance on that front.
What’s one of the most difficult recipes you offer on your website?
I remember it took like three to four hours to make. It was a very traditional dish, a Chinese new year dish. I had to buy a whole fish, gut the fish — which is fine — and then you have to score it a certain way and then deep-fry it, and then cook the sauce, and you have to make the sauce from scratch. At the end of the day we were like, ‘No one’s going to do this at home.’
Have consumer habits changed since you started your website?
If you look at the people born in the 80s, a lot of them still use the app and our website, and Facebook. But when you look at the younger audience, maybe the ones born in the 90s or late 80s, they purely just do YouTube. The way they consume content is very different. The younger audience just watch video content.
Young cousins of mine, they’re like, ‘Facebook? My dad uses it.’ They really don’t use it. They would use Snapchat or Instagram more — or something we’ve never heard of.
Also, a few years back, definitely it wasn’t cool to cook at home. Now I think it’s more apparent that people think cooking at home is trendy. A lot of young people would actually spend time to cook at home today.
You come from a family of excellent cooks — both your mom and dad cook at home. Do your parents ever use your recipes?
My family uses my recipes, like my sisters use my recipes for sure. But not my mom and dad, because they are such good cooks already — they keep telling their friends to use them though. They’re amazing. When I wake up one morning and I have like 32 Facebook notifications I know why — because my mom probably couldn’t sleep and she would be liking all my posts.
Read more from our Dishin’ the Dirt series.