Getting to Know You: Irah and Jelly from Foodstagram.ie
Updated: Jul 22
A series of Q&As with members of the vibrant Irish international community to share their cultural heritage, food memories and stories.
Irah Mari, a risk analyst and Lou Jurelle (Jelly), a student, are the talented women behind the TikTok and Instagram account @foodstagram.ie Born in Dubai and Singapore they both have Filipino heritage.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Dubai and lived there for a couple of years, then moved to the Philippines for another few years and grew up in Dublin, which I now call my home.
I was born and raised in Singapore but my background is Filipino. My family moved to Dublin when I was 10 years old.
What is your family like? What were some of the traditions and memories (food and otherwise) that are most important?
I grew up as the eldest sister to two siblings: a sister and a brother. My parents are both in the medical field as nurses (always so proud to say this!). Food has always been important in Filipino culture. I remember growing up, after going to Sunday mass, it was almost customary that we’d eat out or my parents would prepare what seemed to be a huge feast of Filipino food. Sharing a meal around a table, as often as we can is definitely a sacred tradition in my family.
If you moved to Ireland from another country, what were the circumstances, and how did you find coming here?
I moved to Ireland when I was 6 and because I was brought here at such a young age, I was able to fit in well and had little trouble making friends. Coupled with this, is the fact, I grew up speaking English, as most young Filipinos would, and that also helped me gain a sense of belonging.
My mom is a housewife so growing up she did all of the cooking at home. She did everything for me as a child including packing my lunch for school. For the most part, I adapted well to Dublin and my Irish peers, but my lunch box definitely garnered a lot of attention. In Asia, we can eat rice for every meal including breakfast and lunch. This concept was unfamiliar to the kids in school so I remember being bullied for this. I used to be so embarrassed of the lunch my mum used to pack for me. Looking back, I really had the best lunch box in class.
Do you cook? (Totally OK if no). If so, when did you learn and why?
Yes!! I absolutely love cooking and being in the kitchen!! If I wasn’t working in the corporate world, I think I would have loved to study culinary arts! One of my biggest past times is also watching cooking shows or foodie vlogs such as Mark Wiens, best ever food review show by Sonny, Seonkyung Longest and Marion’s Kitchen!
I learned how to prepare Filipino food simply from watching my parents cook. My dad is the head chef of the family, but my Mam is definitely a backseat chef.
I started cooking when I moved out of my family home and had no choice but to cook for myself to survive!!
Who are the best, and the worst cooks in your life?
I’d naturally have to say my parents, right? But, 3 honourable mentions are for 2 of my parents’ friends, ‘Tito Ray’ and ‘Tia Lea’ for the best homemade Filipino food, like their BBQ and fried chicken and authentic Filipino desserts! Last would be my Thai friend, she just blows me away with her cooking skills. Every time I visit her house, she teaches me a new Thai dish and I’d go off and copy it but I could never come close.
The worst cook… would simply have to be my boyfriend, Arron. Let’s just say he’s still learning but he does make some of the best steaks and potato gratin … When he’s not busy boiling plain chicken.
The best cook I know has to be a good friend of mine. He learnt everything he knows about the kitchen from his late father who was a chef in London Chinatown. Most of the dishes he knows are old family recipe passed down from generations so every dish is truly special.
The worst cook? My housemate who once managed to burn steak, veg and sauce all at the same time. The fire alarm went off that evening and the building had to be evacuated.
What is your favourite dish, and your favourite food memory? Likewise, what is your most traumatizing food experience? (Everybody has one!)
Favourite dish and my death row meal is Korean BBQ.
Favourite food memory is cooking and devouring homemade Filipino breakfast in the Philippines with my family and seeing Arron’s reaction to the absolute feast we have. Garlic rice, fried egg, longanissa (filipino sausage), tapa (beef marinated in garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar), tocino (sweet sticky pork) and the red hotdogs!! His reaction is a memory I’d treasure forever because that’s when he knew he’s Filipino at heart! (FYI, he now has Filipino breakfast at least twice a week!)
One of my favourite food is takoyaki AKA Octopus Balls. This is a savoury Japanese street food that’s creamy inside and is filled with a diced octopus or prawn and topped with mayonnaise, teriyaki-like sauce and bonito flakes.
Favourite food memory - Back in Singapore my family would go to church every weekend. There was a takoyaki stall close to the church and I would eat this every Sunday afternoon. Now every time I eat takoyaki, it reminds me of childhood.
My most traumatising food experience was with fish. In Filipino cuisine, we eat a lot of fish and don’t usually de-bone when we cook it. One time I swallowed a huge bone and I genuinely thought I was going to die!!
Where do you shop? Is there an ingredient/dish that you most crave that you cannot get here?
Asia Market in Ballymount and Costless in Tallaght, that place is a gold mine! There’s only one condiment that can never run out in my place, and that’s my Knorr soy sauce seasoning. I unapologetically put it in everything.
I cook a lot of Asian dishes so I do most of my shopping at Asia Market in Drury street. Dublin has really improved with their accessibility to Asian ingredients. Most of what I need can be found at any local Asian store. This wasn’t always the case maybe 5 or so years ago so I’m very happy about that.
Are you particularly excited about the cuisines of other cultures, and if so, which ones?
I’m a big Thai and Korean food fanatic but have deep appreciation for all cuisines.
I’m curious about all cuisines. There is no limit to what you can discover with food and that’s what excites me the most.
Likewise, are there ingredients/dishes that have repulsed you (mayonnaise, tinned tuna, thousand year old eggs) and if so, have you come around to liking them?
Not really. However, if there’s one thing I will not eat, it would be ketchup.
I’m not a picky eater at all and would honestly try anything once.
Finally, if you are so inclined, we would love it if you would share a recipe or any other ancedotes that you feel are relevant to you but don't fall under Qs above.
See recipe for my Mam’s not-so-secret, highly requested and loved ‘Lumpiang Shanghai’ aka Filipino Egg Rolls! This was a recipe that was posted on our blog, which we’re trying to get it back up and running again!
RECIPE! Lumpiang Shanghai - Filipino Egg Rolls
Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour
Serves: 5-6 people
• 500g minced pork
• 1 medium onion - finely minced
• 2 medium carrots - finely minced
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• 1/2 tsp of pepper
• 1 tsp of salt (according to taste)
• 2 eggs
• 25 square spring roll wrapper - halved diagonally (50 triangular wrapper in total)
• Sweet chilli sauce (optional)
1. Combine meat filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix.
2. ✨Top tip!✨ - TRY YOUR MIXTURE BEFORE YOU WRAP! Fry a teaspoon of the mixture until fully cooked and taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
1. Place a heaped spoonful of the mixture, (pointy side of wrapper away from you) on the lower end of the wrapper, closest to you.
2. Shape the mixture into a log.
3. Fold each end and roll tightly until you have reached the point of the triangle. 4. Brush the point of the wrapper with water to seal.
5. Continue to wrap until all the mixture is finished!
1. In a large pot - heat oil in medium heat.
2. Deep fry for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
3. Line a strainer with kitchen rolls and place the shanghai rolls in an upright position to drain excess oil.
4. Enjoy them freshly fried, dipped in sweet chilli sauce