'Nica (pnkngrnd3) wrote in bookish,

A Tiger in the Kitchen by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Summary: After growing up in Singapore, 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 dishes that defined her childhood calling her back. Was it too late to learn the secrets of her grandmothers' and aunties' kitchens? In her quest to recreate the dishes of Singapore by cooking with her female relatives, Tan learned not only cherished recipes but long-buried family stories.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. It made me want to get in the kitchen with my mom to learn some recipes. (Then I realized I already know most of them.) Cheryl is not the best cook in the world, and she beings the story by burning her fried rice, overcooking her noodles when trying to make fried noodles, and failing to whisk the filling on a cheesecake. Cheryl tells the stories of her family, mainly her ah-ma and Tanglin ah-ma (her grandmothers), learning how they came to be legendary cookers in the kitchen. Her deceased Tanglin ah-ma's recipes are still ordered by neighbors, and her aunties make them in an assembly line at Chinese New Year, particularly her pineapple tarts. While she flies back and forth between New York and Singapore, she also takes on a baking challenge online. She is successful with some dishes and less so with others (horribly burning her ciabatta). Her husband is supportive of her quest to learn her family's recipes and is extremely pleased with her homemade bagels.

The book also includes recipes at the end, though it would seem that most of them could be difficult to make if you do not have an Asian grocery store nearby. You would also need a lot of patience on some of these dishes (the bak-zhang requires the rice to soak for at least 5 hours). The quantities are not exact and the amounts the recipes make may be too large for someone just wanting to try them (the pineapple tart recipe makes about 100 tarts). I would recommend this book to you if you like family cooking stories, or even just want to learn some Singaporean dishes.

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