MOTHER KNOWS BEST
“China Mommy” and “Wok With Mom”, with a little help from their children, are introducing traditional Chinese Home Cooking to the new online generation.
Ispoke with Oi, daughter of Mrs. Gemma Lim a.k.a “Wok With Mom”, and with Oliver, son of Mrs. Linda Tan Co alias “China Mommy”, to find out why their mothers, who should both be enjoying a comfortable retirement, decided to launch new careers as entrepreneurs specializing in classic Chinese cuisine -- and how both ladies are succeeding spectacularly, thanks to the magic of social media.
Wok With Mom specializes in festive Hokkien dishes, those that take great care and a quite a long time to prepare, that’s why they’re difficult to find even in restaurants. China Mommy is best known for her magnificent crab specials, and her classic fresh Chinese lumpia with all the trimmings. Both mommies use their own recipes, passed on from their own mothers and grandmothers before them, and cook in their home kitchens. And yes, both of them deliver, fast and fresh, so you can just relax and enjoy yourself – and their excellent food -- the next time you have a party with your loved ones.
spanky: What was your mom like when you were growing up?
oi: She was always into food... the only vice my dad has is eating, so Mom was always in the kitchen cooking his requests. I remember she even conducted some cooking classes years ago. She always had a keen eye for business, and at different times, she ran a travel agency, a dressmaking boutique, even a “drunken chicken” food delivery. oliver: My mom was working all the time, but whenever I’d get sick, she’d find the time to prepare lugaw and steamed fish for me. She was always busy, but as my siblings and I grew up, she started spending more time at home, and she’d cook feasts for us on Sundays.
spanky: What was your mom’s showcase dish, and what was your favorite dish as a child?
oi: Her specialty was actually a Western dish! A Thanksgiving turkey stuffing! Her other best dish was a potato prawn salad, which is now in the “Wok With Mom” menu.
oliver: Mom is best known for her Chinese lumpia and misua, the recipe of which she got from our grandparents, but my favorite is a very simple Chinese dish - tim nung, or steamed egg with minced meat at the bottom. You’re probably familiar with it as “chawan mushi”.
spanky:When and why did your mom decide to turn her passion into a business?
oi: The dishes my mom cooks are very difficult to find, even in restaurants, and they’re not easy to prepare, especially the Eight Treasure Chicken. So, I knew there could be a market, especially for professionals with precious little time to cook. Since my mom already had mastered these, we decided to offer it as an online business, and we started promoting Wok With Mom just a few months ago.
oliver: A decade ago, my mom started volunteering as a cook for the Ocean Sky Chan Monastery every Saturday. I think that’s what rekindled her love for cooking. Soon, her friends from the temple would ask her to cook for them, so my mom would “experiment” on new dishes every weekend. My siblings and I posted pictures of our lunches, and soon, our friends wanted to be invited to our Sunday meals! It grew from there… eventually, we thought about hitting two birds with one stone, and posted on social media that we were making mom’s cooking available to order to the public. This forced us to learn her recipes.
spanky: What role do you play in your mom’s new business venture?
oi: I’m her Instagram and Facebook specialist, finance and marketing consultant, and yes, marketing in the palengke too… when there are a lot of orders! But first and foremost, I’m her #1 cheerleader!
oliver: My mom does the R&D and sourcing of ingredients, and although my siblings and I have day jobs, we all help in accounting, order-taking, HR, and of course, marketing via social media.
spanky: So, what’s it been like for your family since your moms started their second careers?
oi: We love the feedback, most of all. Our customers always remark that our food reminds them of their Amah’s cooking, which is just perfect. They also love it that they don’t have to slave for long hours in the kitchen, and some have admitted that they secretly transfer Wok With Mom’s food into their own serving platters and boast to their in-laws that they did all the cooking! My mom is already 80, but like you said, she still looks like she’s only 60. This definitely keeps her young!
oliver:Personally, it really makes me happy to see my mom pursue her passion for cooking and turning China Mommy into a booming business at 67 years old. We love the fact that our clients always give us feedback that their memories of their grandparents’ cooking and family traditions are triggered by my mom’s food. That’s what makes her happiest! Hearing those comments really brightens up her days.
spanky: That’s really nice to know, Oliver. And please tell Aunty Linda, that my own mom, a home cook herself, and a Capampangan with very high standards, totally adores China Mommy’s decadent crabs and fresh lumpia. And Oi? I admit that I’ve never tasted an Eight Treasure Chicken as opulent as Aunty Gemma’s, so I was an instant fan. And listening to no less than Ivan Man Dy, Mr. Binondo Food Tour himself, rhapsodize about Wok With Mom? Well that simply reinforced what I already knew: good food becomes truly special, and absolutely unforgettable, when it’s prepared with a mother’s love.
1 Wok With Mom: Mrs. Gemma Lim and her daughter Oi 2 China Mommy: Mrs. Linda Tan Co and her son Oliver 02
3 Eight Treasure Chicken, 4-Hour Braised Pork Knuckles, and Long Life Cha Misua Noodles from Wok With Mom4 Crabs in Curry Sauce. Special Chinese Lumpia, and Fortune Bags from China Mommy5 Wok With Mom’s Eight Treasure Chicken6 China Mommy’s Crabs in Curry Sauce 04