Silver Travel Cook Club

November 2022 – The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook, Volume 2

Singapore: A taste of Straits Heritage Cuisine

This month’s Silver Travel Cook Club features a recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice inspired by Singapore.

And you could win a copy of The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook – Volume 2: Straits Heritage Cuisine by Shermay Lee.

It started out as a simple labour of love for her family, and grew to become a national phenomenon. Mrs Lee Chin Koon (1907-1980), mother of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and a Peranakan by descent, spent a lifetime compiling her own collection of family recipes.

She had intended to pass down the secrets of her homecooked Peranakan and local dishes, perfected over the years in her very own kitchen, to her children and grandchildren.

In 1974, her heritage recipes were eventually published as Mrs Lee’s Cookbook, and were embraced by an entire nation. Her book has since seen numerous reprints, and has become widely accepted as one of the leading authorities on Peranakan and local cuisine in Singapore.

Since the original version remains out of print, Mrs Lee’s granddaughter Shermay Lee has faithfully reworked these well-loved heirloom recipes into two fully illustrated cookbooks, The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook: Volume 1 and Volume 2. These revised editions have become well-loved classics in their own right, showcasing the richness and diversity of modern Peranakan cooking, while staying true to its traditional roots. The first volume won the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in 2003. This second cookbook, The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook Vol. 2: Straits Heritage Cuisine, features a mix of Chinese, Malay and Eurasian dishes, and also includes anecdotes explaining their origins.


Singapore – One of the world’s greatest foodie destinations

Home to 52 Michelin starred restaurants and with its hawker culture inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020, Singapore can justifiably lay claim to being one of the world’s greatest foodie destinations.

Its rich and varied dining culture is a melting pot of cuisines representing its multicultural diaspora, and one where visitors enjoy unique tastes and flavours. From hawker centres to haute cuisine and with a range of prices to suit all travellers, diners in the city are spoilt for choice when eating out.

The annual Singapore Food Festival takes place each year (August/September), showcasing the destination’s diverse foodie scene, as well as introducing new food and drink concepts to locals and visitors alike. Restaurant partnerships, menu takeovers and exclusive dining experiences are scattered across the city, inviting foodies to learn more about the rich heritage of Singaporean cuisine and discover new favourites.


Recipe: Hainanese Chicken Rice

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 1 whole chicken, fat trimmed and set aside, 1.3-1.5kg (3lb 5oz)
  • 50 g fresh ginger root, thinly sliced
  • 2 large spring onions (scallions), roughly chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder or 1/2 chicken stock cube (optional)
  • 2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced, to garnish

For the rice:

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger root, grated
  • 1 tsp garlic, grated
  • 400 g basmati rice, rinsed in cold water and drained

For the ginger and spring onion sauce:

  • 30 g fresh ginger root, finely chopped
  • 60 g spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 90 ml vegetable oil

Method:

  1. Cut off any excess skin from the chicken and reserve it for frying with the rice later.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil (enough for the chicken to be submerged in). Add the chicken to the pan (breast side down) and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes, scooping off any scum from the surface.
  3. Add the ginger, spring onions, garlic, salt, and chicken stock powder or crumbled stock cube (if using) to the pan and simmer over a medium heat for 30-35 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
  4. Carefully lift out the chicken and let it cool, retaining the poaching broth. Once cooled, chop the chicken into chunks with a sharp knife or cleaver.
  5. Heat the vegetable oil for the rice in a saucepan over a high heat. Add the chicken skin trimmings and fry until crispy, then add the onion, ginger and garlic and toss in the drained rice. Mix until the rice is coated.
  6. Add four ladles of the chicken stock from the poaching broth – bring to a simmer and once the water has been absorbed, repeat with more ladles of stock until the rice is cooked. You should need about 600 ml (20 fl oz/2 1/2 cups) of poaching liquid and it should take about 20 minutes; you do not want to make the rice sticky, so avoid stirring it too much. Cover to keep the rice warm and steaming.
  7. To make the sauce, mix the ginger, spring onions and salt in a heatproof bowl. Bring the vegetable oil to the boil in a small flameproof pot – you will see the surface rippling and that is when it is at boiling point – or you can test with the end of the wooden spoon: bubbles will fizz around a wooden spoon immediately. Pour this boiling hot oil over the bowl of ginger and spring onion.
  8. Plate everything up and serve.

How to win a copy of The New Mrs Lee’s Cookbook – Volume 2:
Straits Heritage Cuisine by Shermay Lee

Singaporean cuisine is rich in flavour and taste. Comment below to tell us about a meal you’ve enjoyed or would like to try in Singapore and why it was or would be special.

The best comment will win a copy of the book.

A winner will be chosen in early December 2022.
The competition closes on 30 November 2022.

Read more about all of our Silver Travel Cook Club recipes.

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31 Responses

  1. Having never been to Singapore and never eaten Singapore food to sit in a Singapore restaurant and enjoy true Singapore tastes would be a dream. This cook book would help me towards that dream.

  2. To celebrate my partner’s retirement in 2010, we took the Eastern and Oriental Express from Bangkok, arriving in Singapore on Boxing Day. After so much wonderful, but rich food, we wanted something simple for our first night back on terra firma. At Lau Pa Sat Hawker Centre we looked at all the options, before choosing Singapore’s unofficial national dish, Hainanese Chicken Rice. It was served on a plastic tray with a banana leaf ‘plate’ and was great value at 10 Singaporean Dollars (less than £5). With beer bought at a different stall, it made a refreshing change after opulent onboard four course dinners. Whilst it was tasty and spicy, I suspect it wasn’t as good as Mrs Lee’s recipe.

  3. Thick, sweet, and slightly spicy Singapore chilli crab, a dish to die for.
    Would love to try it in it’s homeland.

  4. We lived in Singapore for 3 1/2 years and enjoyed many tasty
    meals in high end restaurants. But always enjoyed equally lovely food at a fraction of the price in the hawker centres. Would love to go back.

  5. The Black Bull in the quant Dales town of Sedbergh served us oriental inspired starters and nibbles from the chef Nina . Followed by beef pie , the beef from a local farm. The meal finished with superb Sticky Toffee Pudding. Add the impressive and well priced you have a great experience. Walk round this book town to recover.

  6. Well it’s not food, but a Singapore sling in Raffles hotel balcony under a fan is on the bucket list followed by anything on the restaurant menu.

  7. My husband lived in Singapore from the age of 11 to 14. Whilst there .he was very unadventurous with the local cuisine. When we revisited with our 2 children 15 years ago he was completely different,very eager to try all the local delicacies. Our favourite place was Clarke Quay.Now we like to experiment at home, cooking all manner of different cuisines,primarily using fresh,colourful ingredients.

  8. My Partner and I visited Singapore over 30 years ago and the food was tremendous. I would love to win this book and have a go at recreating some of the taste.

  9. Have been to Singapore twice, first time we did not have time to eat outside of the hotel, just an overnight before joint a cruise. But second trip we had 2 nights, so we’re able to eat in a local restaurant recommended by the taxi driver. Food was superb, but can not for the life of me remember the dish name. Would love to return to try more!

  10. We have been to Singapore several times when younger. The beautiful gardens, the many colourful street markets. The hop on hop off buses. The many restaurants. I can remember a particular time when walking along by a river that ran through the town, a downpour of rain began, we took shelter in a restaurant on the banks of the river, yet still in the middle of town. We sat under an umbrella, it was still very warm. There was a young couple on the table in front of us, obviously natives of Singapore, because they knew what they wanted to eat. At one point, a huge dressed lobster appeared, we were mesmerised watching them dissect it with gusto. It looked wonderful. My husband and I were drooling, whilst trying to look Indiscreet. Wonderful memory of fabulous food.

  11. I always visited Oriental restaurants with my French friend when I was living in Northampton years ago. I can’t really recall the names of the meals we ate. But I sure loved all the rich Vietnamese, Japanese, Singaporean delicacies I ate. Yum!

  12. Singapore’s rich multicultural heritage gives a fantastic opportunity to sample the many styles and flavours, including local Chinese, Malay, Indian and Nonya as well as every imaginable Western and International cuisine. Start off with a hotel multinational buffet breakfast, lunch in a local hawker food centre and end with a fine dining dinner. Ask the friendly Singaporeans for their recommendations, everyone has their own favourite spot and dish!

  13. I’ve never been to Singapore but had a cousin from there who told me the night street markets are fabulous for local delicacies and trying new things

  14. Singapore is fabulous with a real mix of cuisine. I haven’t been since 2007, and my new wife has never been anywhere in the Far East. The book would be a good introduction to the delights of Singapore.

  15. We love Asian food but it tastes different wherever you go. The street food is always amazing and so cheap. The best Singapore noodles I’ve ever tasted were in the Gurkha’s Mess, HMS Tamar in Hong Kong – real & authentic cooked with lots of love & passion.

  16. Love Singapore, but it’s sadly been so long since we visited. It used to be my favourite stopping point when we were headed to Australia to visit family. I always made a beeline for the street food vendors when we arrived. So good and such a variety! In fact, Singapore was the first time I had chicken satay!

  17. We ate a fabulous meal at a little red and yellow restaurant in Chinatown area of Singapore. Our table faced onto the street, and we ended up ordering many different dishes as we watched the world go by. What should have been a quick lunch turned into most of the afternoon. Fascinating food!

  18. On my gap year more than 30 years ago we visited Singapore & found it quite expensive after Thailand & Malaysia. However we enjoyed a few meals at the satay club, sadly no longer there – it was an open air space with tables & benches in the middle & carts selling satay round the edge. Fabulous food & we even met some £10 poms from Perth with whom we met up when we reached Perth on our travels. We also enjoyed chilli crab whilst in Singapore.

  19. I have never travelled to Singapore and the only food I have tasted is ‘Singapore Noodles’. However, I’m up for a taste adventure and would love to win a recipe book as I love trying new foods.

  20. Singapore is full of tastes and smells that bring out the feeling of the soul with this book could help to bring those memories back

  21. I have never tasted Singaporean food but it sounds delicious. I’d love to try the recipes to see what the cuisine is all about!

  22. Due to ongoing health issues I have had to postpone travelling to Singapore with my husband. We love to try local dishes when visiting other countries. Mrs Lee’s cookbook would enable us to taste the rich Singaporean cuisine in our own home until hopefully will be able to visit Singapore

  23. I’d love to win this book as enjoy experimenting with different flavours from world cooking. Travel experiences can begin at home!

  24. I am going to Singapore in February and I want to try out Nasi Goreng and see if it is as tasty as my brother-in-law’s version.

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