Foodie and Photographer Betty Liu Shares her Favourite Summer Eats with Us

Boston-based and California-raised photographer Betty Liu is a whirlwhind of photographic activity and mouthwatering cookery. Shooting weddings at weekends and her own tempting concoctions during the week, Betty’s online blog and Instagram have attracted a slew of foodies and photo-holics for their stunning recipes and photo content, chronicling the whole cookery process – not just the finished product.

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The blog started as a way of chronicling her her food experiences whilst she learned how to perfect her mother’s recipes for the home cooking she missed when she left California for college in the Mid West. Microstories like these are Betty’s passion, and her posts detail the inspirational origins of the recipe, many of which are influenced heavily by Betty’s parents and the traditional Chinese food of her childhood.

We’ve drafted Betty in as our expert gastronomical consultant for Summer ’17. Check out her recommended culinary delights for the season, below, after we have a quick chat.

The Plus: Your blog focuses on the stories behind the recipes – any ones in particular that have stuck with you?
Betty Liu:
The ones I learned from my mom (like Shanghai Shaomai) are particularly special to me, because they were the treats of my childhood, the ones I look forward to most when I go home to visit. They usually involve some traditional wrapping process, which can take some time to get used to, but that process is also especially meaningful – to think that these hand movements have been passed down from generation to generation.

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TP: As an excellent food photographer, any top tips for perfectly photographing meals for the insta-post?
For a quick photo for social media, lighting is the most important. Smart phones have amazing capabilities nowadays, and with good, natural light, you can definitely get a stellar photo! Find a table near a window and avoid yellow overhead lights. After that, think about the composition – the movement of the photo.

TP: Your heritage recipes are an important part of the site – any other cultural cuisines you’d like more time to explore?
Absolutely! I’m curious about many different cuisines, in particular Sichuan cuisine, Japanese cuisine, and Italian cuisine!

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TP: What inspires you to start work on another recipe for the blog?
Recently the market has been inspiring me – I love exploring local farmer’s markets, talking with the farmers in the Boston area, and finding out what is fresh and in season. I find myself drawn to vegetables and produce that I never would have noticed before, and that inspires me to start experimenting with them.

TP: What’s the most surprising ingredient that you’ve cooked with (or had cooked for you!)?
Sea-beans! I had them for the first time at a workshop I hosted on Martha’s Vineyard, and our chef whipped up a delightful salad studded with fresh sea-beans. They were bursts of salty juice in the salad, and I quickly became obsessed with them.

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TP: Some people have one food item they just can’t stand – cucumber, oyster, spice… – anything that you just can’t stomach?
Fermented shark, the Icelandic delicacy. When I was there, I really wanted to try it. Everyone told us not to do it, but I love everything fermented and thought I’d be able to stomach it. One tiny cube of fermented shark, and I was done.

TP: Go-to comfort food?

Check out Betty’s recommended Summer delicacies below – drool over the pics, and follow though to her site to make each dish yourself! Bon appetit.

Sichuan “Mouth-Numbing” Corn on the Cob
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Sichuan spice is known for its characteristically ‘numbing’ quality, Betty tells us. This two-part summer scorcher shows you how to make Betty’s own mouth-numbing chilli oil, which triumphant spice-lovers can slather onto their freshly-boiled corn on the cob. Handle with care.
Click here for recipe.

Fresh Lychee, Mint, Gin Cocktail
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This juicy, thick-skinned fruit – a favourite of Betty’s in China and California – is pressed for its copious juice, and it subtle sweetness is blended with fresh mint and a kick of fresh lime. A cloudy cocktail for a cloudless Summer day.
Click here for recipe.

Classic Shanghai Mung Bean Popsiclse
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This fascinating frozen snack takes Betty back to her hot and humid Shanghai summers. Essentially a blended and frozen mungbean soup, this creamy treat has a delicate sweetness and, on Betty’s mum’s authority, anti-inflammatory properties that make this a treat for both your body and your soul.
Click here for recipe.

Sea Salt Affogato, inspired by 85°c Bakery
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Sea salt affogato
Early morning visits to this ubiquitous bakery chain during an architecture internship in Shanghai aperked off Betty’s love for sweetness topped with salt. Vanilla ice-cream – a summer staple! – is drizzled with strong hot espresso, nutty sprinkles, and sea-salt whipped cream. Yes, please.
Click here for recipe.

Chilled Lemongrass Corn Soup
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This chilled summer soup is a symphony of summer hues, with sweet and sunny corn, soft green diced avocado, and a dark accent of crispy scallions. The kind of liquid lunch you can get away with at work.
Click here for recipe.

Watermelon Tomato Mentsuyu Salad
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This one isn’t a recommendation, it’s an order: “this is a salad that must be eaten during the summer”, says Betty – use ripe watermelon and only the plumpest, sweetest tomatoes you can find. This light salad is drizzled with mentsuyu dressing that balances the sweet fruit and vegetables with its umami flavouring. Garnished with herbs and seeds for the perfect low-maintenance delight.
Click here for recipe.

Summery Peach Braised Chicken Thighs with Oyster Mushrooms and Thai Basil
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Inspired by a trip to a New Hampshire mushroom farm, fresh oyster mushrooms and succulent summer peaches give the chicken thigh braise a sweet’n’savoury twist. Add in thai basil, and these crisp, juicy chicken thighs are an instant triumph for al-fresco summer dinners.
Click here for recipe.