Name: Ronan Mahony
Location: Ireland and Thailand
Years of Experience: 6
Available for writing projects: Yes
Niche/Beat/Genre: Thai Food and Information Security
Portfolio website: Ronan the Writer
Blog: Thai Food Paradise
Book: Thai Food At Home (self-published)
Favorite food: Thai Food
Writing tip for fellow writers: The biggest thing that improved my writing was a shift to using the active voice whenever possible. The active voice shortens your sentences and makes your writing punchier, which is vital when writing online content.
Ronan Mahony loves Thai food. He loves it so much that he decided to start a blog dedicated to celebrating Thai cuisine, ingredients, cookware, travel and more. Did we mention that Ronan lives in Ireland?
Ronan splits his time between Dublin and Chiang Mai, Thailand, running his blog, Thai Food Paradise while also supplementing his income with freelance writing gigs for companies such as SEMrush. We caught up with Ronan to find out more about his passion for Thai food.
What inspired you to start your website?
I inherited quite an entrepreneurial spirit from my Dad and I enjoy being creative. I felt like starting a food website was a nice way to combine both creativity and entrepreneurship.
Is your website now your full-time job, or do you do other writing?
My Thai food website is something I work on alongside other writing gigs. I was never entirely sure how to monetize a blog for the first few years of its creation. I’ve had to rely on freelance writing in other niches, such as information security, to pay the bills.
I’m going through a phase now where I’m trying different strategies to grow my income from my Thai food website, including ads and affiliate marketing. It’s my hope that I can become less reliant on writing for clients and grow my blog to the point where it brings in at least half of my monthly income.
Why did you decide to focus on Thai food?
I went on a solo backpacking trip to Southeast Asia when I was 23 and I immediately fell in love with Thai food.
I still remember the first time I had som tam (spicy papaya salad) from a street-side vendor. The freshness, vibrancy, and spice level blew me away. The flavors instantly hooked me.
I returned several times over the course of my 20s, for months at a time, to explore Thailand’s food culture. Eating Thai food was a natural passion, and the conventional blogging wisdom is to write what you’re interested in, so it was a great fit for me.
What have you found to be the hardest part of running a food blog?
Managing so many different things is definitely the biggest challenge. You’ve got to research, write content, upload it to WordPress, format it, optimize it for SEO, edit, add images, add links, and then publish. And as I’ve found out, the work doesn’t end there!
Many of the most successful bloggers are also great marketers, which is something I struggle with. Having a presence on social media alongside all of the hard work that goes into a website itself can be draining. Food photography is also a real challenge and something that I’m still very much a beginner at.
Does being an Amazon affiliate help pay the bills?
At the moment, unfortunately not! I only recently implemented some affiliate-focused content on the blog and it’s still a work-in-progress. It’s important for me to find a balance and ensure affiliate content doesn’t take over the blog.
I don’t want it to detract from what typically brings visitors there, which is valuable and helpful Thai food content, such as recipes. The cookware niche also happens to be quite competitive, so it’s a real challenge to rank any affiliate content.
What has been the most rewarding part of running a food blog?
When people from different parts of the world comment on a post I wrote, such as my Thai stir-fried morning glory recipe, and they tell me it was delicious. That makes all the hard work worthwhile; to know that the words you wrote added something of value to someone’s life.
Tell us about your book, Thai Food at Home.
Thai Food at Home is a recipe book that goes beyond the usual red curry and tom yum soup recipes that people often associate with Thai food and order from their local takeaway.
I wanted to broaden the horizons of anyone interested in cooking Thai dishes from home. There are dishes in there you wouldn’t know about because few Thai restaurants in the West have them on their menus.
Part of the adventure of cooking some of these dishes is sourcing the ingredients from your local Asian grocery store. I like to think the book is an accessible introduction to real-deal Thai food from your own kitchen.
What is your favorite Thai meal, and why?
Tough question. I’d have to say my favorite dish is papaya salad with rice vermicelli noodles. This is a variation on the classic Thai papaya salad eaten widely in the North and Northeast of the country.
In these regions, the locals add a particularly funky-flavored seasoning to their food, known as pla ra. This is a seasoning made from fermented fish with rice bran. It has a pungent smell that can be slightly overwhelming, but it dances on the taste buds with a combination of sourness and saltiness that takes papaya salad to the next level.
Do you have any favorite food/cooking books that you would recommend?
Yes. Unsurprisingly, there’s a Thai food cookbook in my recommendations! Pok Pok by Andy Ricker is an excellent resource for the type of Thai food I like to eat.
Any food bloggers who inspire you?
Mark Wiens is an inspiration. I was reading his Thai food blog years ago; way back when he was a relative unknown. Now, he gets millions of views every month on YouTube vlogging about his food adventures.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d like to encourage people to be more adventurous the next time they’re eating Thai food. Try a dish you’ve never heard of rather than the go-to dishes. You might be surprised.