This Singaporean cookbook began with the recipe collection of Sharon Wee's mother, which included recipes passed down from her mother and grandmothers. Measurements had to be translated from various systems, and for an author who was now living in New York, traditional ingredients sometimes required a quest.
Nevertheless, Growing up in a Nonya Kitchen is an entrancing and comprehensive book that helps preserve the stories behind traditions. Singapore's many overlapping cultural legacies are on view here, with Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, Indian, Sri Lankan, Arab, Portuguese, and English elements appearing.
Just as appealing and a running theme are Wee's memories of her mother and her mother's contemporaries, whose way of life, bridging multiple cultures and confined by traditions that have since fallen out of practice, are distinctly and vividly captured.
The recipes are carefully written with precise measurements that cooks of Wee's mother's generation likely never used. But they are helpful for those of us who did not grow up in a Nonya kitchen ourselves and need instruction for preparing dishes such as itek sio (duck in tamarind gravy), kaolak chang (rice dumplings with chestnuts and pork) and kueh koya (moulded mung bean cookies).
Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.