malou perez-nievera photo by izaiah johnson

What I Do: Malou Perez-Nievera

Search YouTube for “Jollibee recipe,” and Malou Perez-Nievera’s online cooking show “Skip to Malou” is among the top results. Her video on the Filipino chain’s wildly popular fried chicken has 2.7 million views and counting. Perez-Nievera has created more than 80 short episodes showing home cooks how to prepare classic Filipino dishes from lechon to chicken adobo, and she has hosted dozens of pop-ups around St. Louis. “I want to be the Filipino version of Ina Garten,” she joked. She recently retuned from a two-month stay in the Philippines and shared how she went from an immigrant mom cooking for her family to an online Filipino food expert.

“My dad was a politician, and our house was always full of guests, even for breakfast. I would watch how our help would prepare a vat of noodles instantly. I was just always amazed at how they do it. ... I was the one who entertained and who loved to serve. The inclination was there, but I never really thought of doing this as a career.” 

“I started cooking when I started dating. I believe in that saying, ‘The way to your partner’s heart is through the stomach.’ Literally, that’s how I got my husband. Our maid cooked this dish, this reposado, which is this Filipino shrimp tempura, and I said I cooked it. He fell in love with me, like head over heels. [When that maid left,] I said, ‘I cannot cook it. She cooked it!’ He said, ‘Oh my God, you tricked me.’” 

“I had three kids, so I had to feed them, and the best way for them to know their roots is to cook food. I know that later on, their palate grows, but at least it will be embedded somewhere in their food memory that this is Filipino food.”

“Without knowing what a blog was, I started ‘Skip to Malou.’ And there it was. I didn’t know it was like birthing a new baby because it takes a lot of time and energy and effort and passion to write and continuously write. … For someone who didn’t know about photography and SEO or anything internet, it made me work 24/7 to build ‘Skip to Malou.’”

“All the recipes that I have are all my take. If you would let a traditional Filipino eat my food, she wouldn’t recognize it until she would taste it. I try to play with the flavors and the looks of it. I try to modernize it.”

“The basic ingredient in Filipino food is the vinegar because we come from a tropical country and [during] a time with no refrigeration, one way to preserve our food was to cook it with vinegar and acid.”

“We use everything that Asian countries use, but on the other side of the spectrum, because we were colonized by the Spanish. We have a lot of Spanish influences like our stews in tomato sauce, our lengua, which is tongue, our ox tripe stewed in tomato sauce.”

“As much as possible, I want to grasp the traditional way of cooking the recipes that were handed down by my grandmother. That's what I did the past two months. I didn’t cook. I just watched. … I love the play of it. I love the fusion of the old and new in what I know now.”

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine. 

Tags : People