We’ve all been there—scrolling through an endless Instagram feed of mouthwatering recipe ideas. Whether through colorful images so rich you swear you could taste it or through videos so tempting you can imagine the smell of it being prepared right before you, you’ve likely saved countless recipes to recreate the edible magic that teases us across social media and digital platforms.
The chefs behind these appetizing and flavorful foods know this about us, and A-list food bloggers like Bee Yinn Low from Rasa Malaysia know how to mix those ingredients for our own ease and delicious enjoyment. Just a glance at her Instagram account will leave you salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Bee‘s Instagram Stories content will grace the homepage of Mediakix’s new website, launching this summer.
Bee Low has been a food blogger since before blogging became a popular hobby. As a best-selling cookbook author, social media influencer, and digital brand ambassador for brands like PF Chang’s and KitchenAid, Bee playfully weaves together her Malaysian heritage with her worldly cuisine interests, producing recipes that are easy enough for beginner level cooks to emulate and tasty enough for the late Anthony Bourdain’s liking.
We caught up with Bee in an exclusive interview to learn more about the journey behind her successful Rasa Malaysia recipe blog and to see what’s in store for 2019.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself/your story, how you developed an interest in cooking, and why you decided to launch a recipe-focused blog?
I am a Malaysian but a permanent resident in the US. I came to the USA for graduate school and have never left.
Growing up in Malaysia, I was exposed to amazing Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Southeast Asian cuisines. I’ve had a very sophisticated palate since I was young, having been exposed by my family to all kinds of spices and varied spectrum of Asian flavors. Also, I grew up in a huge family with amazing home cooks where food was the biggest celebration. Watching my grandmother, mother and aunts cooking in the kitchen helped develop my keen interest in cooking.
I started a personal blog in 2006 to chronicle my business travels and my family’s (Malaysian) recipes. The personal blog eventually evolved into a recipe blog and Rasa Malaysia was born.
When did you start blogging? When did it really take off?
I started blogging when I was working at MySpace as the Director of International Development. Due to the nature of my job, I was traveling extensively in Asia Pacific and Europe.
The blog started as a personal diary of my business travels, with some Malaysian recipes. The recipes were very well received, so much so that The New York Times featured my blog and interviewed me for an article. That was the moment it really took off.
Over time, my content strategy changed—from Malaysian recipes to general Asian recipes, but now I do a little bit of everything, with weeknight dinner being my main focus now.
Your Instagram account @rasamalaysia is followed by over 100K fans, while your Facebook and Pinterest attract more than 800M and 400M respectively. How do your social media strategy and creative approach differ across these channels?
I invested a lot of time on Facebook and Pinterest for a very long time as both platforms drive massive traffic to my site. I gained a lot of followers by being very active on both platforms, sharing my recipes and photos religiously every day.
I am very late to the Instagram game even though I created the account years ago. It didn’t help that my account was hacked a few years ago and the hacker deleted all my old posts.
I had to rebuild my Instagram since then, but in all honesty, I didn’t invest much time on the platform since Instagram doesn’t drive significant traffic to my site. I have only gotten active on Instagram in the past year or so.
It’s never too late; I am embracing the potential of Instagram now.
What central message do you hope your audience will take away through following your recipe ideas and videos?
The central message of my brand is easy and delicious recipes; anyone can make a delicious meal at home by following my simple recipes.
If you look at my recipe cards, they have very few ingredients and easy instructions, while the end results are delightful. I want people to learn cooking, and I make my recipes very accessible, even for beginners.
Your blog and Instagram account occasionally feature snippets of your travel adventures, fashion, and lifestyle tips. How do these elements make you a more versatile creator?
I love traveling and I travel at least 5-6 times a year, all around the world. Food, travel, and culture are intertwined; I love taking my followers vicariously through my travels and sharing my adventures with them.
I love fashion and I have a terminal disease called vanity (lol). I secretly wish that I were a fashion and lifestyle blogger. In reality, I do get bored seeing my Instagram feed with food contents, so occasionally, I share lifestyle, travel and fashion posts to keep my Instagram fresh and interesting.
When and how did you realize you could make a living through blogging?
When the annual revenue from my blog surpassed my annual salary as a Director at MySpace. That was 2009. I left my job and have since worked on my site full time.
Are any tactics particularly effective in helping you grow your audience online?
The blogging business has changed so much since 2006 and my tactics change and evolve over time. For example, what used to work 3 years ago are obsolete now. The key is to keep learning but one thing stays constant, Google is the boss. You really have to be good in SEO and continue to evolve with Google to keep growing the audience, or at the very least, maintaining the audience. It’s very challenging, as things are changing so fast these days.
How has your blog changed since you started? Any specific turning points?
In 2008, I changed from being a Malaysian-recipes-only blog to a general Asian recipes blog. It was the year of the Beijing Olympics and there was an intense interest in Chinese cooking. I started doing a lot of Chinese recipes and from that point onwards, I expanded my content strategy to include all kinds of recipes on my site.
When choosing whether or not to work with a brand, how do you decide? How do you ensure that sponsored content fits in seamlessly with your organic content?
First and foremost, I have to believe in the brand and its product. I can’t write with an authentic voice if I don’t. Secondly, a sponsorship has to be fair: the rates, the brand’s expectations, and my deliverables, etc.
I do a maximum of two sponsored posts in any given month. Anything more than that is overkill.
What advice would you give to brands and marketers looking to work with influencers for sponsorships?
I notice that brands and marketers are drawn to “superficial” things about influencers, for examples: the number of followers, likes, comments, engagement, etc. I think brands and marketers should look beyond the obvious, ROI doesn’t happen overnight and those metrics do not necessarily translate to sales conversion. Marketers should invest in good and high-quality influencers who can grow with the brand.
About 10 years ago, I worked with a big Japanese brand for 4 consecutive years. Every year we focused on a key marketing message, and then the next marketing message the following years, etc. I still get comments about the brand and my followers are still buying their products.
In what single way has social media most changed your life?
I worked at “the” social media (MySpace) before other social media platforms even existed. I started my blog because of my job at MySpace, that was pretty much life-changing.
You had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Bourdain—are there any lessons you learned from him that you apply to your cooking craft?
I am really fortunate to have met him in person. He didn’t influence my cooking craft so much, but he had certainly influenced me on my worldview about traveling, eating, and soaking in culture (other than mine).
What two pieces of advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own cooking/recipe blog?
Content is KING. Create very good content and people will come. There is no shortcut in food blogging. I had taken way too many shortcuts before I learned my lesson.
Your top two cooking tips of all time?
1) Garlic and butter. You will never go wrong with them. 2) The best recipe lies between your tongue and palate.
Worst food you’ve ever tried?
None, because all foods are edible. It’s either good or not so good.
All-time favorite food?
Seafood, all kinds of seafood, regardless of cuisines and cooking styles.
Recipe you’d most like to perfect?
Right now, it’s probably Japanese cheesecake.
Favorite city you’ve ever visited?
Penang, Malaysia, my hometown.
Place you’d most like to visit?
I want to go back to Italy, again and again, for their amazing food, coffee, desserts and the sweetest tomatoes in the whole world!
Place you’ve visited with the best food?
Malaysia. Nothing tastes like home.
Any exciting projects or plans in store for 2019 that your followers should get excited for?
I just learned from a videographer how to shoot my own cooking videos. I had always outsourced them. I am excited about producing my own cooking videos and sharing with my followers.
Anything else to add?
Remember to check out my new site at Easy Weeknight. Thanks for reading this article!