February 3, 2010

Mrs Lee's Cookbook

What a uninnovative name for a cookbook! This book is given to me by a secondary school friend R.  She saw my facebook status that I am learning/wanting to learn how to cook peranakan food. Since we have some peranakan roots purely from the school that we studied, R got me this cookbook, apparently a "bible of peranakan cooking". 

This book was published about 36 years ago and written by Mrs Lee CK when she was 70 years old. The late Mrs Lee is the mother of SG's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (also SG's first prime minister). You can tell from the cover of the book and the layout of the contents that this is a relatively old book. There are few photos and if there were, the photos were not taken well nor of good quality. It looks authentic enough and there is a good explanation of the type of ingredients/methods of cooking as introduction. However, there are many spelling and grammical errors which I spotted.

I reckon peranakan cooking is not really difficult. It is the spices that makes it unique and fragrant. Most of them are dependent on the rempah, which is the paste of various spices pounded in a mortar and pestle. On my recent trip to SG, I managed to bring through a packet of candlenuts, of which I was pleased that it cleared customs. A 100g pack only costs me S$0.99 and so I thought I will buy 1 packet to risk and see if it will clear Oz customs. It did and I was so happy... Candlenut is one of the 'special' ingredient in some rempah of peranakan (and some Indonesian) dishes and I cannot find them in the Asian grocery stores here in Oz.

Sample of recipe - beef rendang

An index of common ingredients and their alias names used in peranakan cooking

A google of this book revealed that there are newer versions of this cookbook, updated by Mrs Lee's granddaughter Shermay Lee. Shermay has her own cooking school too - WOW! I have not tried any recipes from this book yet. But certainly I want to get started on this... Watch this page!

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