Nikki Wong, Software Developer on Baking

The most rewarding thing about baking is when you meet customers who really enjoy what you make. There are no words to describe how happy it makes me feel when people come to the markets JUST to buy food from Two Bytes. When you meet people with dietary restrictions/allergies and they come to the stalls super-excited because I have vegan and gluten-free options available, to be able to provide for them makes me feel like what I do is so purposeful. To be able to bring happiness to people through homemade food is a wonderful feeling.

My name is Nikki Wong and I’m a software developer. I started off as a scientist, then I did a masters by research in Pharmacology. During my time working in the lab, I realised that the jobs I was doing were very repetitive, and I thought this is all going to be automated in the future! So surely, I’d want to be the one writing the programs behind the machine rather than being the person who uses the machines! Therefore, I did a conversion course in Computer Science and fell in love with coding, regardless of the language. The ability to be creative in your problem solving and create things to solve someone else’s problem – it’s become something I love to do.

My interest in baking started when I was a little girl, as my mum is big into cooking and baking – she cooked and baked everything for us! I’ve always had a passion for food making; I baked for friends and family, but it wasn’t until the end of 2017 when I decided to take it a bit more serious and look into setting up a food business, Two Bytes, where I sell homemade vegan baos as well as gluten-free and vegan sweet treats at local markets.

After many years of home cooked/baked Asian food, I can definitely taste the difference between homemade Asian cuisine and store-bought or foods from restaurants. I guess I wanted to share with people how tasty real Asian foods can be, and perhaps introduce them to some sweet treats they may never have seen or heard of before. And the reason why I’ve gone the vegan route is because there is a lack of vegan Asian food out there and I know a lot of people who miss Asian food since becoming vegan. It’s also an opportunity to get my mum involved because I know she loves to bake and cook for people but never really went about selling food herself as she thought it was too difficult to start!

Two Bytes came about because I wanted something to do with IT in the business name! There have been so many times when I wanted “just a bite to eat”, nothing too heavy. So, I thought “two bites” = “two bytes” of food seems like a good name, because everything I make is relatively small and not going to make you overly full, which is something which I don’t like to feel (overly full!), and thus Two Bytes was born.

I’m particularly proud of my baos (traditionally steamed Chinese bun) because I make them super light and fluffy. My mom, who rarely compliments my cooking, said they’re better than her baos, which I must say was a proud moment for me! I’ve also developed a vegan melted cheese, which is a great hit at the markets, as well as coconut custard, both of which I use to fill the baos. My partner who loves cheese (he comes from a state in Brazil where cheese is part of the staple diet) said that if he couldn’t eat cheese anymore for health reasons, he would happily eat my vegan cheese as a replacement. My gluten-free vegan matcha cookies are also a favourite amongst the customers (also a favourite of my partner’s!)

The first time I tried to do gluten free baos using rice flour and cornstarch instead of normal flour… it turned out to be as dense as a rock and rather inedible. I haven’t given up yet but haven’t attempted another gluten-free batch since!

I think it’s very important to have healthy options at Two Bytes because nowadays people eat so much processed foods full of chemicals, sugars, and salts, which really is not good for your health. I know in a lot of restaurants and takeaways, they add a lot of MSG (food additive) to their food to make it tastier and more addictive so you will come back for more. I believe that if you season your foods right and use good ingredients, it is just as tasty as those that are highly processed and even healthier, without all those added chemicals of additives, flavourings, and preservatives. At Two Bytes, I’m always conscious of what ingredients go into my products and I always state what I use so that my customers know what exactly goes in. Two Bytes gluten-free vegan sweet treats use minimal amounts of sugar so that you can enjoy all the flavours of the different ingredients used to make it. But of course, I still say eat in moderation!

Baking can be a bit hectic sometimes because I still work full time, but I usually do my baking at 3/4 a.m. when everyone is still sleeping. So it can be quite relaxing and actually meditative, especially when the birds are out singing. And when I’m making my baos and decorating them with faces, I always feel happy inside when they are done and steamed – sure look at them, they are just so cute!

At the end of the day, to see the faces of children light up as they eat Two Bytes food gives me such an amazing feeling on the inside. If baking is something you love to do, then go for it! “I don’t have time” is just an excuse – if you really want to do it, you can make time for it; at least that’s what I learned to do. Life is too short to not at least try to do what you love. Give it a go and see where it takes you. Don’t just dream it, do it!

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