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by Cheryl Tan
“Starting with charred fried rice and ending with flaky pineapple
tarts, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan takes us along on a personal journey that most
can only fantasize about–an exploration of family history and culture
through a mastery of home-cooked dishes. Tan’s delectable education
through the landscape of Singaporean cuisine teaches us that food is the
tie that binds.”
–Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
After growing up in the most food-obsessed city in the world, Cheryl Lu-Lien
Tan left home and family at eighteen for America–proof of the
rebelliousness of daughters born in the Year of the Tiger. But as a
thirtysomething fashion writer in New York, she felt the Singaporean
dishes that defined her childhood beginning to call her back. Was it too
late to learn the secrets of her grandmothers’ and aunties’ kitchens,
as well as the tumultuous family history that had kept them hidden
before? In her quest to recreate the dishes of her native Singapore by cooking with her family, Tan learned not only cherished recipes but long-buried stories of past generations.
A Tiger in the Kitchen, which includes ten authentic recipes for Singaporean classics such as pineapple tarts and Teochew braised duck, is the charming, beautifully written story of a Chinese-Singaporean ex-pat who learns to infuse her New York lifestyle with the rich lessons of the Singaporean kitchen, ultimately reconnecting with her family and herself.
Praise for A Tiger in the Kitchen
“Cheryl Tan, a Tiger in the Kitchen, keeps coming back to Singapore in pursuit of the haunting flavors of childhood meals and finds a part of herself she didn’t know existed in the kitchens of her loving aunties.”
–Gael Greene, InsatiableCritic.com
“How does a NYC fashion journalist find herself in Singapore tackling 3000 pineapple tarts, rice dumplings, and other Teochew dishes? Along with the author, we discover the secrets of a culture through the language of the kitchen in this ultimate cure for culinary homesickness.” –Kim Sunée, author of Trail of Crumbs
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is a New York-based writer who has covered fashion, retail, and home design (and written the occasional food story) for the Wall Street Journal. Before that she was the senior fashion writer for InStyle magazine and the senior arts writer for the Baltimore Sun. Born and raised in Singapore, she studied journalism at Northwestern University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and Marie Claire, among many other publications.
Recipe and photo from A Tiger in the Kitchen
Yield: About 4 cups
1⁄2 to 1 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
Milk from shredded pulp of 1 coconut (squeeze milk out in 2 batches)
3 pandan leaves, tied in knots
Crack the eggs in a bowl; whisk them together. Add 1⁄2 to 1 cup of sugar and coconut milk and mix it up well. Transfer mixture to a glass bowl, add knotted pandan leaves, then perch that bowl atop a steaming rack in a wok.
Steam the mixture for 45 to 60 minutes, untouched (if using Ah-Ma’s method), until the desired consistency is reached. If you are using the method E-Ma and I experimented with, stir occasionally. When you remove the kaya from the steamer, stir it, let it cool, and spread it over toasted bread. The consistency should be smooth and creamy.
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