Photography by Kenneth Lam

My Media Diet: Angela Hui on her debut novel, Takeaway

Chinese might be one of the nation’s favourite takeaways, but it didn’t feel like that when Hui grew up above one in rural South Wales. Here, she talks about the new book and what she gets up to beyond the confines of her stovetop.

Angela Huis parents opened their Chinese takeaway restaurant, The Lucky Star, on 8th August 1988 – a particularly significant date, as the number eight is thought to bring about wealth and fortune in her culture. This milestone forms the basis of Hui’s debut novel, Takeaway: Stories from a Childhood Behind the Counter, a bracing and poignant account of growing up above The Lucky Star in Beddau, a village in rural South Wales.

Back then, Hui, now a food journalist based in London, would take turns with her brothers to help their parents prep food after school and before the shop opened, from prawn peeling to spring rolling and everything in between. During this time, she felt the push and pull between her British and Chinese identities, wrestling with what it meant to fit in” as an outsider, contending with racism and the familial tension that came from Hui’s first language not being the same as her parents’.

Writing the book was so hard and intense,” Hui says. There are a lot of traumatic and personal things in the book that I never addressed growing up and really triggered anxiety. It’s a very exposing thing to be sharing with the world, but the best things are also the hardest. This is a story that isn’t often told in mainstream media – it feels bigger than me. I just hope I did it justice.”

Peppered with comforting recipes, dry, irreverent humour and illustrations by Georgina Leung, Takeaway charts Hui’s journey of self-discovery while celebrating the richness and diversity of Chinese cuisine. But the balancing act of finding appreciation for your parents in the midst of emotional and financial turmoil is a major theme, too. In the book, I re-examine my identity during a time where I hated being Chinese and was figuring out this love-hate relationship I had with my family and food,” Hui continues.

I hope people gain a better understanding and compassion for immigrant families trying to run a business and make it in a different country.” Given the rise of food delivery apps, we’ve arguably never felt more disconnected from those who prepare our orders. In the same way the local boozer holds a special place in your heart, so too should your go-to takeaway shops and the people who run them – Takeaway is a healthy reminder of that.

I really wish I could give my younger self a hug and tell her it’s going to be OK,” Hui says. Also, I’ve realised that growing up in a Chinese takeaway in South Wales is pretty fucking cool.” When she’s not writing about food or cooking up a storm, here’s what Angela Hui gets up to on the internet…

The last article I found myself thinking about was…

Most likely a Vittles article. If you haven’t signed up already, please do so immediately. I learn so much from every piece, it gives me so much joy and hope for food media. From Ruby Tandoh’s Incidental Eating column to editor and founder Jonathan Nunn’s greedy antics galavanting around London, eating and writing about pupusas, while having the balls to call out bad and structurally racist food [when] writing about Peckham.

The last new artist I discovered on Spotify was…

Automatic, a very cool three-piece girl band from Los Angeles.

The last picture I liked on Instagram was…

Ixta Belfrage’s chicken, pineapple and nduja recipe.

Loading...

The last TikTok I sent to a friend was…

I’m really obsessed with chaotic cooking – it’s so fucking funny to me. I know it’s kind of disgusting but I want to know how this guy is still alive…

The last series I binged (or watched a lot of) was…

I’m currently watching season two of The Boys. It’s so gory and dark, I love it.

The last Reddit thread I got sucked into was…

TVs that are too high. Once you start, you can’t stop.

The last book I stayed awake reading was…

I lost my advance copy of Rebecca May Johnson’s Small Fires: An Epic in the Kitchen because I stupidly left my bag in a McDonald’s, so had to beg, steal or borrow from a friend for it. I absolutely adore Rebecca’s writing, from the way she beautifully describes food to her nail-on-the-head, smart social criticism about domesticity in the kitchen. It’s like therapy and I can’t wait for the world to read. It’s out on 25th August, and she has a newsletter called Dinner Document. I highly recommend it.

The last new word I learned was…

Technically not a word, but a saying. I love learning new Cantonese phrases. 扮豬食老虎 (baan zyu sik lou fu) literally translates as to pretend to be a pig to eat a tiger” – it means being a backstabber, and to be careful of people who appear innocent but later become manipulatively evil.

The last meme that made me laugh aloud was…

It’s funny because it’s sad… and true.

Loading...

Read Next:

Read this...

Loading...
00:00 / 00:00