Chinese-Australian cook and food writer Hetty McKinnon shares “Asian(ish)” recipes, tips and stories in her latest cookbook ‘To Asia, With Love’.
The cookbook is a representation of Hetty’s love of vegetables and her unique hybrid cooking style, which she says “really encapsulates” who she is.
“As we are one step removed from our cultural heritage, the food we cook is not always ‘authentic’ but rather an amalgam of influences,” says Hetty.
“I’m taking the dishes of my childhood and modernising them in a way that feels true to me as a Chinese-Australian.”
Filled with photos taken on her own treasured Nikon FE, Hetty’s ‘To Asia, With Love’ provokes an understanding and appreciation for Asian cooking that goes beyond your typical cookbook.
“Through this book, I want to invite everyone into my home,” Hetty says.
“Through every recipe, I want readers to see the world through my eyes, to connect over feelings and emotions that are common to all of us, despite our cultural background.”
- Maltese values of food and community come alive at Pastizzi Cafe Newtown
- Colombo Social feeds communities in need through ‘Plate It Forward’ program
- Madame Nhu: Innovative Vietnamese comfort food steeped in family and tradition
The cookbook is an ode to food in an immigrant household. Hetty says that, growing up, she was not always proud of her Chinese heritage and often felt different.
“When you grow up in an immigrant household, food is often the thing that makes you feel really different to your friends,” she admits, “While they are eating cornflakes for breakfast, I’m eating fried rice.”
She says that for “children of immigrants from… Asian countries, the book represents an acknowledgement of our experiences growing up with an Asian face in a white country… many people have contacted me to say that through this book, they feel ‘seen’ for the first time.”
As an adult, Hetty’s identity has become a source of pride. Elements of both her Chinese and Australian cultures now come together naturally in her original recipes.
Hetty hopes that by simplifying and explaining Asian ingredients and techniques, she can make Asian food less intimidating. She wants to emphasise the importance of food to Asian cultures and in staying connected to heritage.
Based in New York with her family for almost six years, Hetty felt it was essential to reflect on her childhood and memories of her mother.
“Memory is my greatest inspiration in creating recipes,” Hetty says.
“Especially as I get older and lean more heavily into the foods of my childhood. These recipes are now a culinary legacy for my own children.”
‘To Asia, With Love’ presents its readers with a personal and caring interpretation of Asian cooking, carefully curated by Hetty and filled with love.
“’To Asia, With Love’ is my love letter to my mother’s kitchen but from a practical point of view, I want to democratise Asian food for home cooks,” Hetty says.
“I want to give them the confidence to cook Asian flavours every day, using pantry staples, so they can nurture their families with the same flavours I grew up devouring. That connection is important to me, because it is a vital step in building bridges between people from all different cultures. I believe this is the true power of food.”
To Asia, With Love by Hetty McKinnon, Published by Plum, RRP $39.99, Photography by Hetty McKinnon.