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Dill Is an Elegant New Asian Food Mag—Published by a 20-Year-Old

When Shayne Chammavanijakul isn’t eating leftover pizza like her fellow University of Illinois students, she’s test-cooking chile-water bug relish and mint and cilantro chutney for the print magazine she runs.

Shayne Chammavanijakul   Photo: Courtesy of Shayne Chammavanijakul

When Shayne Chammavanijakul, 20, is not studying for a Spanish exam, conducting research at the linguistics lab, or hanging out with friends at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the Chicago native is busy creating one of the freshest small-press food magazines to hit the stacks recently. Dill, which just released its second issue, “Relishes,” last month, is a sumptuous quarterly publication that, according to its mission, “honors the foodways of Asia and celebrates those who make a living sustaining the culinary traditions of this vast and diverse continent.”

Issue 2 features articles by well-known food writers from around the globe, including award-winning Mike Sula, food critic for the Chicago Reader, who also contributed to the inaugural issue of Dill. “Relishes” covers everything from the Thai jack-of-all-trades nam phrik—with over 15 accompanying recipes exclusively devoted to the dish—to the Maranao condiment palapa to a mint and cilantro chutney inspired by Bollywood. Each recipe, matched with an artful yet mouthwatering photograph or illustration, makes even a novice want to head to the kitchen to explore.

Here, Chammavanijakul offers insight on what she’s learned, her vision, and a certain incidence of a dish falling victim to her busy lifestyle:

On print journalism

As I embarked on this journey, a lot of people gave me the warning that print journalism is dead. But I love the feel of paper between your fingers and the smell of old books. You know, I’m a millennial but I feel old-fashioned. I wanted something that was carefully curated. With print content you know that our writers are vetted and selected. Especially when you have a 130-page magazine and limited real estate, you want to be sure that you know the material that’s going into it. I wanted all of that in a tangible product—something you can hold onto forever.

On the recipes in Issue 2

All of our recipes are triple-tested by me and the staff. We had everybody come over to the kitchen in my basement.

One of the recipes in the new issue is a roasted chile-water bug relish. These Thai relishes, as strange as they may seem to people, are what the Thai people eat on a daily basis, and they love them.  It’s used not so much as a source of protein but for their fragrant and floral scent.

Some of my other personal favorites from the new issue are: riandang, a spicy caramelized braised beef dish from the embattled Muslim-dominant area in the Philippines that’s served over turmeric-coconut rice; nam phrik long ruea kak mu (boat relish) that’s commonly found in Thailand, especially in Bangkok, but hardly ever served in Thai restaurants stateside; a Cambodian coconut and fermented fish dipping sauce that has such a unique taste and looks like most of the Thai relishes I grew up eating.

For the piece I wrote for the issue, “In the Kitchen with Sri Rao,” I actually did not know a lot about Indian food going in. I loved the creamy mint and cilantro chutney and the hot salsa, and being able to learn more about chutney and the role that it plays in Southeast Asian culture. It’s been a learning experience, which is the vision I wanted to carry out.

On managing it all

I don’t know! I’m a college student so I don’t get much time to cook. Sometimes I’ll have leftover pizza for breakfast. So it was great to get to do a lot of recipe testing when I was home for break.

I don’t have a magic formula. I like to be busy and I’ve gotten better at knowing what I’m able to manage, but it’s not always glamorous to have a lot on your plate.

On learning from Issue 1

The first issue was great, but it was still our first issue. My only experience with Adobe InDesign was from working on my high school student newspaper. Issue 1 focused on presenting content. With the second issue we wanted to make sure that every chutney, every sauce really popped. Relishes and sauces are full of color and we wanted to put a bigger emphasis on how they look. I’m very proud of the visuals for this issue.

Worst cooking experience?

One of my friends was getting her wisdom teeth removed and I wanted to make her something nice that she could eat. I’m totally the mom of my friend group. She asked me to make my jok moo, a Thai pork and rice porridge. I guess I was trying to multitask, and didn’t realize I had burnt all the rice at the bottom. I left it on the stove for her when she got back from the surgery. She couldn’t eat it.

Issue 3 of Dill comes out in June 2018.

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