Each week we profile a different Canadian Food Blogger who is part of the FBC community. This week we meet Raj, the Surrey, BC blogger who focuses on bringing together her Punjabi roots with her Canadian upbringing.
Name: Raj Thandhi
Blog name: Pink Chai Living
Where were you born? I was born in Victoria, BC. West Coast girl through and through!
Where are you living now? I now live in Surrey BC, but spent almost a decade in Abbotsford too.
Why did you start your blog?
My first blog was really just a photo diary of what I wore every day. I was going through a rough patch emotionally and career wise, and felt myself sinking into the same type of feelings that I had when I was suffering from PPD. So, I decided to force myself to do a Project 365 and take pictures of my outfits for 365 days.
The version of Pink Chai Living that I’m known for today (a food heavy lifestyle blog), came about when my grandmother was very sick and in the hospital in 2014. I had this sudden realization that everything she taught me about Indian culture and food, would be gone in a generation or two. Holding her hand in that hospital room made me realize how many of her recipes would be lost after she was gone, and I suddenly started writing about food & culture.
How did you decide on your blog name?
Pink is my favourite colour. For me it’s more than a colour, it’s a representation of following your heart, being kind, and leading with love. And chai, is like the world wide symbol for my culture. Everyone knows that chai belongs to India. I put the two words together to represent myself.
Funny enough, I later learned that there is a very popular tea made in the Kashmir region of India called Pink Chai!
What do you blog about?
I like to call myself a lifestyle blogger because it allows me space to write about whatever I’m interested in, in the moment! But truly, I write about food, family, DIY, books, and a little bit of travel. My goal with my content is to fuse my two cultures, Canadian and Punjabi. I’m always looking for a balance of preserving tradition, and bringing a modern touch to my recipes, craft projects, and my family experiences.
Is your blog your business, your hobby or something in between?
My blog and social media have mostly alway served as a portfolio for my social media marketing business. I run a boutique marketing agency (Pink Chai Media) that provides content creation, social media marketing, influencer outreach and PR services.
I offer sponsored content on my blog, but it hasn’t really been my focus until recently. Covid really affected my business, we lost 80% of our clients, because we mainly work with restaurant and hospitality businesses. So, at the moment, I’m transitioning my blog to be my main business!
What post on your blog most encapsulates you and why?
I think it’s this Diwali Cookie Box, because it really is a beautiful depiction of tradition that meets modern aesthetics. I have always admired Martha Stewart’s cookies, and the beautiful Christmas cookie boxes that fill up my Pinterest feed during the holidays. This cookie box fuses all the flavours of my favourite Indian sweets, and the spirit of my favourite festival, yet it’s packaged up in a way that the “Canadian” graphic designer and art director in me can relate too.
When my kids were toddlers, I always wanted to show them that our festivals and holidays could be showcased as beautifully as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. This Diwali Cookie Box was that full circle moment for me.
Which post do you wish received more love and why?
I created this post on a traditional Punjabi dish, saag, which when made traditionally takes 6- hours. I make this dish once a year, on the Punjabi festival of Lohri, and am always asked to share a step-by-step recipe. This year I recorded the process, and really thought it was going to be one of my most popular posts, but it got very little traction.
I wish this post and video had gotten more love, because this is one of the most sacred and traditional dishes of Punajabi cuisine, and I feel like making it this way (slowly on the stove top, versus Instant Pot cooking), is disappearing.
Which post’s success surprised you and why?
Recently I shared a very honest and raw post about why I regret changing my maiden name when I got married. (I’m still happily married by the way, in case anyone is wondering!). I really had very little expectation from it, and wrote it more for myself as a journaling exercise mostly, but hundreds of women reached out to me on Instagram to share their feelings and stories. I have never had that type of response to anything I’ve written before.
What’s your biggest challenge as a blogger?
Consistency. I’ve never been able to focus on my blog the way I want to, and post consistently because my business and clients were priority. In this season of my blogging career, I’m very excited to have time to write and create daily.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a blogger?
Focus on your own audience and numbers. The only thing that matters if you are doing this as a business is how your community is interacting with your content. Looking at someone else’s Instagram or blog followers or comments, won’t help you grow your own community.
What has been your biggest success as a blogger so far?
It was a pinch me moment when my Tandoori Turkey recipe was featured in the Washington Post.
Share a couple of your favourite food blogs to read. Why do you like them?
Flour & Spice: My friend Sarah writes a beautiful food blog, where she shares the most amazing Pakistani recipes. She has the type of blog where you enjoy reading the intro text as much as you enjoy drooling over the pictures. Her recipes are so relatable. When I see her posts, I’m often thinking - I have those ingredients in the fridge, or I could make that!
Food Nouveau is another favourite. I love how Marie writes about the intricacies of cooking and food. I get really into her descriptions and the details. I feel like I’m reading a cookbook when I read Food Nouveau, and that’s my favourite type of reading!
Hungry Paprikas blog by Amina is just plain drool worthy content. Middle Eastern food is my absolute favourite, and Amina’s photos just make me want to eat every single thing she cooks.
Favourite food - care to share a recipe or a restaurant destination?
My kids have this game they love to play. It’s some variation of would you rather, and what if. What if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life? Would you rather eat the same meal for the rest of your life, or not eat at all for three weeks?
Every time I’m forced to select a meal, my answer is dal chawal. Lentils and rice for life. This is the dal that I would eat every day for the rest of my life if forced too.
What are you working on next for your blog?
I’m currently working on a whole re-do for the design of the blog which involves moving to a new back end platform and pulling my hair out!
What else should we know about you that may or not be in your “About Me” page?
My about page is the worst! I haven’t updated it in years because I hate writing about myself. A couple of random facts; I was once in a Bollywood movie, I’m turning 40 in October and so bummed I had to cancel my “eat everything Julia did in Paris” trip, and I’m a closet introvert.
What makes your blog unique?
There are really only a handful of Punjabi Canadian bloggers, and a lifestyle blog focused at this micro niche is really pretty unique. It felt really lonely in the blogosphere the first 7 or 8 years, but I’m now connecting with like minded bloggers and loving it.
How do you cultivate a sense of community around your blog?
Social media connections. From day one it was twitter that connected me with readers and fellow creators. Then there were Facebook groups, now it’s Insta. The platform changes, but we always find each other on social media.
What part of the FBC site do you find most useful?
The recipes! I love the 20 minute meals section, and have been using it with my kids to find things they can cook recently.
Connect with Raj and Pink Chai Living on Social Media