“The purpose of these videos is to recreate a moment of transmission of a Mama to her children.”
The Youtube platform is teeming with young creators who offer video content of all kinds. Diana is one of them. Its Youtube channel Chez Mama Ly has 5393 subscribers and totals over 429,839 views. Its goal ? Demystify Khmer and Asian cuisine by making it accessible to all.
- Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Diana, I’m 30 years old and I was born in France, my parents are Sino-Khmer.
My mother was born in Phnom Penh, my father in Battambang. They arrived in France in the 1980s. To start I will say that I am not Mama Ly, the name of my Youtube channel is a tribute to my mother.
- Why this project?
During all my childhood I was bathed in all this culinary universe with a lot of smells and spices. My parents were restorers in the 15th arrondissement of Paris for about fifteen years, but they ended up changing jobs.
But I also had other members of my family who were restorers. My mother cooked a lot and always dishes from Southeast Asia. Her cuisine is melting pot, she cooks both Cambodian and Vietnamese, Chinese or Thai dishes.
Cambodia has always been a country influenced by its neighbors because of migration but also because of wars. Suddenly this influence was translated into the kitchen of my mother.
However, as time goes on, with the dual French and Sino-Khmer culture, our linguistic but also culinary heritage can be lost. So I absolutely wanted to write a book not to lose this heritage because I found it a shame not to be able to cook like my mother.
Unfortunately, I lost my mother five years ago. Knowledge in Asia is transmitted orally. After his death I absolutely had to do something.
In time, memory would fail me. So I wanted to write this book, a project that was unfinished for the moment. But it led me to want to share the recipes of my mother with French and French society.
- The Asian restaurants in France often look like selfs, or each one is used, it makes trade difficult ..
Yes, I think it was not in the ways of doing at the time. I noticed that in France, it lacks a lot of pedagogy. For example, when people say, “I’m going to eat Chinese,” the French think they eat nems while it’s a Vietnamese dish.
I think that when our Asian parents arrived in France, they did not have the will to explain where the dishes they were preparing came from.
However, the second generation born in France has this desire to discover our culture. The purpose of these videos is to recreate a moment of transmission of a Mama to her children.
I want to show that Asian cooking is not difficult. I also try to put the dishes in their national context.
- You also offer workshops, is this a way to meet your subscribers? Are you a restaurateur yourself ?
Not at all, I did a business school with a master’s degree.
I was marketing manager in a box. But I just left my job to get into this activity full time. So I started this Youtube channel while being employed, and without being myself a restaurateur. I have proposed these workshops for anniversary events, for companies and, more recently, I was invited to the Fair of Paris. I was able to do a live workshop with dozens of people around me for three days.
- When we watch your videos, we realize that this is a kitchen of great simplicity, why do you think we do not cook Asian at home?
Yes, absolutely it was one of my goals to introduce Asian cuisine in a more affordable light.
The French do not know all the ingredients. This can be a barrier for some. To cook Asian, you need maybe three or four basic ingredients as in France, so nothing complicated.
Some dishes may take longer, of course, but making a veal stew also takes longer, so you have to demystify this image of Asian cuisine.What I present in my videos are dishes that I cook everyday, even when I do not have a lot of time. There are some tricks, techniques of cutouts unknown that are to learn, it takes only a little pedagogy.
- Why did you choose the Youtube platform to spread your know-how?
I love to watch people cook on Youtube, I have subscribed to several channels. I noticed that there were not many channels on the subject, and that the people who shot these videos did not explain very well how to do Asian cooking. Some explanations were missing, which I could do thanks to my culture.
- Unlike many videographers on the subject of cooking or gastronomy, you remain quite discreet about your private life, we do not see you doing vlog for example. Is it a desire on your part?
Not really, I just ran out of time when I was employed. Working in a company and producing videos at the same time is difficult. I was shooting the weekend and I was riding during the week after work. Beyond the recipe videos, I’d like to make videos of tips, techniques, and also vlogs as I did in Malaysia to present specialties of the country.
This kind of video is in the works, and I would also like to show a little more who I am and why I do that.
- Can you talk about the links you have with your Cambodian origins? Have you had the opportunity to return to Cambodia?
I have been to Cambodia only once with my parents, I think it is painful for them to go back. I live in the 13th arrondissement, which looks a bit like Chinatown, so I’m not too out of place (laughs).
The link I have with Cambodia is with the association Les Jeunes Teochew de France, composed mostly of people of my age, who try to put Asian cultures back to their proper place.
My French-Khmer friends also allow me to keep in touch with my culture of origin.
Interviewed by Hugo Bolorinos