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MìLà Cofounder Jen Liao on Cooking Asian Cuisine At Home (Particularly if You’re a Newbie)

Plus, she shares her go-to cookbooks and must-have tools.
Jen Liao
May 2, 2024

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Skimm Her Life is a series in our weekly newsletter, Skimm Your Life, where smart women share their favorite things.

Today’s Skimm Her Life is a tasty one. Jen Liao, cofounder of MìLà (the brand that makes our favorite frozen soup dumplings and Chinese noodles) is here to share tips on cooking Asian cuisine at home, her go-to cookbooks, and so much more. Jen, tell us what we should be making…

For our readers that are new to MìLà, give them theSkimm on your company. What inspired you to start it? Which product should they try first?

The concept actually originated as a restaurant in Seattle, which we started with our friends to share really great Chinese street food. When the pandemic hit, we started experimenting with at-home options. Soup dumplings aren’t a great takeout food, so we got to work figuring out how to make a frozen soup dumpling that people could steam and enjoy at home. Now, we offer frozen soup dumplings (our signature item, which I recommend trying first!) and a growing variety of other Chinese specialties like noodles and sauces that ship nationwide.

What’s your favorite way to prepare a dinner from MìLà if you’re short on time?

Our soup dumplings and noodle kits are both quick and easy to prepare, and don’t require any fancy equipment beyond a pan, pot, and/or steamer. I can put our soup dumplings on the stove and not check them until they’re done. If I’m really short on time, I can get a few other things done while I’m waiting. My husband (cofounder Caleb Wang) and I actually just did a 10 Minute Challenge for our Instagram followers to see what we could accomplish in the 10 minutes it takes soup dumplings to prepare. I loaded laundry, watered plants, took out the trash, and even made some headway on cleaning my son’s playroom.

What tips do you have for those new to cooking Asian cuisine at home? Are there any kitchen tools or products you recommend?

Diving into cooking anything you’re not familiar with can be intimidating, but like any other cuisine, you can find things that match how ambitious you want to be. It was important for us to maintain a level of authenticity you don’t necessarily get with microwavable soup dumplings, while making sure they’re easy for anyone to prepare. All you need is a pan to boil water in and a bamboo steamer basket to set on top. I like to serve them in our dipping bowls (which we designed to have a built-in reservoir just for sauces). I always use a soup spoon when eating, so I don’t miss out on any broth.

Any favorite cookbooks and cookbook authors you turn to?

I love that there are more cookbooks coming out that speak to the third-culture experience through food, which is a huge inspiration behind MìLà. Two of my favorites are Jon Kung’s “Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third-Culture Kitchen” and Frankie Gaw’s “First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home.” For foolproof techniques on everyday foods, I turn to J. Kenji López-Alt’s “The Food Lab.” For something unique and fun, Jenny Dorsey’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Official Cookbook.”

Psst: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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