Every book written has a story behind it. This is the story of how the book came about. This is the story of the Lord’s goodness and kindness.
Pinch me. I need to know if this is for real. My cookbook entitled Rice. Noodles.Yum. (Everyone’s Favorite Southeast Asian Dishes) is coming out today. Yes, today – June 11, 2019 is my publication date. Today, I become a published author. But, the true honor doesn’t belong to me. To God be all the glory as without His kindness, this wouldn’t be real.
*If you wish to order a copy of the book, simply click on the photo above. To learn more about the book, click on Our Cookbook page above.
This almost surreal reality made me think back, reflect on how I began this journey. I cannot even imagine I’d be where I am now. After all I studied for 8 years to become a lawyer, practiced law before I got married and thought I’d be an attorney all my life. But that wasn’t God’s plan and I am glad it didn’t turn out the way I thought it would be.
It all began when the saddest moment of my life unexpectedly happened. It was the summer of 2011. I was 37 ½ weeks pregnant with our third child and looking forward to the birth. We visited my ob-gyn for the last weekly routine visit just before I gave birth. On that fateful day, on August 30, 2011, the doctor gave me the usual ultra sound to check the baby’s condition. After several attempts with the machine, he looked at us with a pained expression and told us he could not hear the baby’s heartbeat. Eventually, after more tests, he told us the baby has passed away presumably due to the pre-eclampsia I suffered late in the pregnancy. I was totally devastated. Both me and my husband were in a state of shock and experienced indescribable pain. You can read more about the story and tribute I wrote for Brooklyn Alexie, our third child, here.
While the first few months after our baby died were unbearable, by God’s grace we all managed to cope. I knew I had to go on living as normally as I could for the sake of my remaining family, my husband and two kids, that the Lord entrusted to me. I thought to myself that I needed to do something, a new endeavor perhaps, to occupy me and enable me to go on. I wanted to re-channel all that grief and pent-up emotion into something both productive and constructive. I didn’t want to forever wallow in self-pity or keep on asking about the whys and the what ifs while life went on around me. I knew I still had much to live for.
After much thought and prayer, I decided to start food blogging somewhat loosely in the summer of 2012. At this point, I have been married for nearly 8 years, have learned how to cook through many trials and errors and have acquired a good collection of recipes. I managed to do a lot of cooking during those years because I wasn’t allowed to work outside of the home due to visa restrictions. Instead, I became a full-pledged stay-at-home-mom. I consider it God’s blessing because this enabled me not only to learn how to cook properly but I was also able to fully look after my two kids and witnessed all their milestones and see them grow up. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I initially thought I’d make an online journal to store recipes I have tried, tested and made myself so I never have to lose them ever again and also to easily share these dishes with family and friends. Thus, Manila Spoon was born. Incidentally, it was my husband who thought of that name. I was born in Manila, loved the food in Manila so I thought it made sense to name the blog after my city of birth. Eventually, I made a Facebook page for my blog and posted my recipes there regularly. People began to follow my page and have enjoyed the recipes I shared with them. My page grew with over 200,000 followers to date.
While I often thought of eventually writing a book, I never thought it would ever become a reality. In 2017, Page Street Publishing, out of the blue, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in writing a cookbook. To this day, I don’t even know how they found me. It wasn’t something I sought for. It just landed on my lap. They asked me what I wanted to write on and I immediately mentioned rice because I am obsessed with it! I added some noodles to the mix because noodles and rice often go together and in my region, Southeast Asia, both are equally popular.
I wanted to write about popular and authentic rice and noodles dishes from Southeast Asia and for that I had to travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines to do some research. While I have visited these countries in my previous travels, this time my aim was not just to become a cultural observer but actually to immerse myself into each country’s food culture by eating and trying their food and also learning how to make them as well. This was a daunting process for me because I didn’t really know anyone in these countries apart from the Philippines.
But, the Lord in His kindness was there with me every step of the way. I felt his guiding hand all throughout the many days I travelled around the region. The Lord led me to the right people to contact and ask for help. What was amazing was that I met some Christians in these countries even in the most unexpected places. My AirBnB hosts from Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, were Christians. The first people I met upon arriving in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, a communist country, were likewise Christians. Likewise, the Lord paved the way for me to contact friends in Singapore, who I haven’t seen in more than a decade, who graciously provided us with free accommodation. And yes, they were Christians, too. It was as if the Lord was reminding me not to be scared in traveling even in unfamiliar places because He’s got His people there to provide help when needed. I was totally blown away on how this research trip to Southeast Asia turned out. The Lord provided me with traveling companions, great accommodations, the best culinary teachers and enabled me to discover the best rice and noodles dishes to use for the book.
After six months of repeated recipe testing, photography, and editing, by God’s grace I submitted my first manuscript. I was scared it would be rejected or that I would be asked to repeat the entire process. Thankfully and totally unexpectedly, my editor loved the manuscript and hardly had any major corrections. Again, it was all by God’s grace.
What was most amazing was how the Lord timed it all. I began the journey for the actual making of the book on March 20, 2017 when I left for the Philippines to do my culinary research. Fast forward, exactly a year later on March 20, 2019, I received the first copy of my cookbook. I have come full circle! For me, strange is it may sound, this is not merely a coincidence but God’s providence in action. This was nothing short of a miracle!
Now to this important milestone in my life – June 11, 2019. Here I am looking at my book stocked in the Asian section of the Strand Bookstore in New York City. If someone would have told me this would happen in 2019, exactly seven years after I started blogging in the summer of 2012, I wouldn’t have believed that person at all. But the Lord works in mysterious ways and always makes everything perfect in His time!
Since the book has just been released today and I don’t know exactly how it would be received by the buying public, I am still at peace knowing that the God who guided me every step of the way in the making of this book, would still be there to help me navigate this unfamiliar field of marketing and publishing. More than anything, I am happy with the experience the Lord provided me in making this book. It is a true testament to His loving-kindness as this book wouldn’t have come into existence if not for him. So all I can say is this – to God be the glory!
Rice. Noodles. Yum. (Everyone’s Favorite Southeast Asian Dishes) has 75 authentic and delicious recipes from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines all in full color. You can order a copy of the book in any of these book outlets or anywhere books are sold:
With a variety of authentic popular fried rice dishes, noodle favorites like Pad Thai, Pansit, Pho Bo, Mie Goreng and so much more, plus the yummiest street food and sweet treats – this cookbook has a recipe for everyone! It’s like traveling to South East Asia without having to leave home.
Here’s what PUBLISHERS WEEKLY has to say about our book:
“Manila Spoon blogger Raines delivers on her promise of flavorful dishes built around noodles and rice. Raines offers such popular standbys as pad Thai, pad see ew, pho, and fresh spring rolls, but offers plenty of surprises. There’s moo sarong, a visually impressive dish of fried pork meatballs wrapped in noodles; serabi, Indonesian coconut pancakes drizzled with a coconut caramel sauce (rice flour is the titular connection); and soto ayam, a rich and restorative chicken noodle soup with turmeric and ginger. Raines includes cultural mashups, such as beringhe, a Filipino riff on classic Spanish paella that incorporates turmeric, coconut milk, fish sauce, chorizo, and raisins; a craveable mee goreng mamak (egg noodles in a sweet and spicy sauce) from Kuala Lumpur; rice noodles with curried beef gravy (“the Asian version of the Italian classic spaghetti and meatballs”); and carioca, a Filipino treat of fried sticky rice balls in a coconut caramel sauce. Raines’s instructions are clear, and nearly all ingredients are easily sourced. This is an outstanding assembly of dishes, and a book sure to get plenty of use.” (June) Read the review here.
Take a look inside the book through a video!