Singapore: A taste of Straits Heritage Cuisine
Please note: this prize draw is now closed.
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
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
- Cut off any excess skin from the chicken and reserve it for frying with the rice later.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.