By Mei Kuan
If you have not already checked out Cook with Ipohbunny, a free-of-charge community platform where food lovers and creators can gather and support one another, you are missing out big time!
Ipoh Echo had an exclusive interview with Ipoh-born Alexandra Wong to learn more about this passion project of hers.
“Cook with Ipohbunny started with the goal of creating an archive for my recipes as well as my family recipes. Along the way, it occurred to me that there was much more I could do. I could collect recipes from other friends and give them a permanent home that they can easily refer to and share. Then I thought, hey I have interviewed so many chefs for the media – why not ask them to share recipes too? And then COVID-19 came along and as I learned more about the tremendous challenges that F&B operators face daily, I thought it’d be great to know how they overcome them, and inspire other small businesses to carry on,” she explained, citing that “Bunny” is a nickname of hers since school time which served as an inspiration behind the name of the website.
A writer by profession, Alexandra helmed a popular column called Navel Gazer in The Star for nearly ten years. She took a leap of faith and left her corporate job to pursue her dream of being a writer. With a major in English language and literature from Universiti Sains Malaysia, she is the author of the book titled “Made in Malaysia: Stories of Hometown Heroes and Hidden Gems” published in 2014 and the biography “Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep: The Recollections of Malaysia’s First Lady Dermatologist” published in 2017.
She currently lives in Kuala Lumpur but travels around Malaysia frequently, especially to Ipoh, her hometown, and Penang, where she spent her early adulthood.
Posting twice a week on average, the content of the online platform is reflective of her forte: feel-good stories about people, travel and food.
“I write two kinds of stories that I label as ‘Stories’ and ‘Recipes’. ‘Stories’ are longer posts where I do proper interviews and in-depth research, like a feature article. It all started at the beginning of MCO when I saw many F&B operators struggling to survive. Among them, a few stood out because of their innovativeness. One of them was Charlie’s Café – the owners introduced a slew of new products and created entertaining videos that went viral. That’s when it hit me, in times of crisis, you have to do whatever it takes to save your business and protect your family. I thought it was a great story and wrote it, not expecting much. To my amazement, my website got so many hits that it went down a few days later! Most importantly, it also drove new customers to his shop,” she shared.
Her self-funded endeavor is also a true love note to her hometown. For instance, she wrote on how acclaimed UK-trained Ipoh chef Sam Lau went back to basics after MCO forced him to shut down his restaurant – a highlight which received positive feedback from many including Sam himself. Equally inspiring is the story of Rendang Tok Mak Nik, the iconic brand founded by one of Perak’s most successful women entrepreneurs.
“Meanwhile, ‘Recipes’ features a recipe along with a backstory. Other than my own recipes, I feature recipes from friends and chefs. Slowly, I’m teasing family recipes out of family and friends to honour our mothers, grandmothers, fathers etc who have fed us for generations, without ever getting appreciated for their contribution. My mission is to provide a platform for emerging or hidden Malaysian cooking talent,” the amiable Alexandra expressed.
Here, she talks readers through the ins and outs of the pork-free recipes complete with prep time, cook time, serving size, tags and plenty of useful notes of where to get the necessary tools and ingredients. Did I mention that the step-by-step instructions are accompanied by beautifully photographed illustrations?
She prides herself on being a resourceful home cook and this is showcased in her recipes, “I started cooking seriously after 2015. Before that, I was terrified to even fry an egg. My cooking modus operandi is to make the best out of what you have in your kitchen. Improvise with abandon and glee!”
From Western, Nyonya, Korean to Chinese restaurant-style dishes, she has an eye for health in her cooking. I am most excited to try her fail-proof recipe for claypot chicken rice and to recreate popular Ipoh hawker food from my own kitchen!
“I’m really excited that traction is building up and requests for collaborations are coming in steadily – from affiliate marketing to product reviews to food tasting! It’s still in early stages, so stay tuned!” she enthused.