Leaderboard Banner

A Social Media Account Fuels a Cookbook Author’s Dream

by Lambeth Hochwald

As a child, Kat Lieu, founder of Subtle Asian Baking and bestselling author of Modern Asian Baking at Home, always dreamed of being an author. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that Lieu, who spent the earlier years of her career as a physical therapist, found her calling.

“I was a PT for 13-plus years, but I was always writing,” says Lieu, whose newest cookbook Modern Asian Kitchen: Essential and Easy Recipes for Ramen, Dumplings, Dim Sum, Stir-Fries, Rice Bowls, Pho, Bibimbaps, and More, published last month. “But I never thought I’d be a published cookbook author.”

Lieu’s dream came true during the pandemic when she created the social media account, @subtleasian.baking. Thanks to its robust content, the account, which currently has 159K followers, garnered plenty of media attention. In the meantime, the group also raised money for AAPI causes (to date they’ve raised over $100,000). 

It was during the height of that social media boom that Lieu was contacted by her now-publisher, asking if she was working on a book. She jumped at that opportunity and put together a community-based cookbook inspired by recipes from members of this group. That book did so well, she soon received another cookbook deal with the same publisher.

In her newest cookbook, Lieu focuses on several genres of Asian cuisine, with more than 80 inventive recipes for vibrant vegetable dishes, street-food favorites, dim sum, quick noodle dishes, customizable bibimbap bowls and Southeast Asian favorites, including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options. Here’s more on the cookbook and what’s next for this very busy writer:

OS: What’s one of your favorite recipes in Modern Asian Kitchen?

Lieu: The umami-packed spiral cucumber salad is so refreshing and full of umami—it’s different from other salads and you’ll want to make it over and over again. It’s a go-to for vegans. The only hard part is cutting the cucumber in a spiral!

OS: I read that an all-AAPI team of women photographers shot every photo. Can you tell us more?

Lieu: This was very important to me. Take our miso soup recipe, for example. The photographers schooled me to make sure the photo was taken with chopsticks, not a spoon, since miso soup isn’t traditionally eaten with a spoon. We talked about how to tell the story of each recipe through the visuals and how important it is to preserve the traditions around it.

OS: I love that you leaned into other experts with the recipes.

Lieu: If I’m doing a Korean recipe, I acknowledge that I’m not an expert in Korean cooking as I’m half Vietnamese and half Japanese. It’s important to respect the cultures you’re adapting recipes from.

OS: Can you share any hacks for busy cooks?

Lieu: If you don’t have time to make dumpling or dim sum wrappers from scratch, you can use rice paper. I always tell people that it’s definitely okay to use rice paper in a pinch.

OS: Can you share more about why you included so many vegan, gluten-free or vegetarian recipes?

Lieu: I’m not vegan, but I created inclusive baking and cooking options so everyone can enjoy my recipes. After I gave birth to my son 10 years ago, I couldn’t eat beef anymore. I’m also lactose intolerant and feel like—for sustainability for our future and climate change—it’s important to eat more plant-based meals. In the end, I want my book to appeal to someone who is vegan and for them to see that there’s a lot of vegan options in the cookbook. There are lots of alternatives if you’re gluten-free, too.

OS: What’s next for you?

Lieu: I’m working on an Asian baking book called 108 Asian cookies. I’ll finish the manuscript this year and it will publish in 2025. I can’t wait to share it and I have to say: It’s so surreal to see my books in bookstores around the world. I haven’t come to terms with the fact that I reached my dream before I turned 40!

You may also like