Food & Drink

Recipes, cookbook reviews, interviews with chefs, culinary insights and wine columns
Food & Drink - South China Morning Post
  1. How did you become interested in food? “When I was a kid, my mom wasn’t that great a cook, she was a very busy single mother for a while. But when we went to restaurants, I was drawn in, like when the Wizard of Oz says, ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’. You read a piece of paper, it goes into the ether and then out comes your food.”When did you start to learn to cook? “I was around 14. I was terrible at school. Science and history were my favourite classes, but not maths or…
  2. The late Jiggs Kalra, who died in 2019 and whose full name was Jaspal Inder Singh Kalra, was a great promoter of Indian cuisine. He started his career as a journalist and that morphed into food writing, which then led to consulting for restaurants and hotels, writing cookbooks and hosting television programmes, including Daawat (“Banquet”).The recipes Kalra presented on the show were not his own; rather, he invited chefs from all over India to “showcase the fabulous culinary heritage of India”,…
  3. I am an avid reader of cookery memoirs, especially the older ones, where a glimpse into what life was like in bygone days is just as interesting as the recipes. In many of the books, the recipes are too complex or extravagant to be used for everyday fare in modern households. But occasionally, the books yield long-lost treasures that are delicious and easy to make.Hazelnut tartThis recipe is adapted from one of my favourite cooking memoirs, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (1954), in which the…
  4. What was your childhood like in Singapore? “My parents were always working so I lived with my grandmother. She cooked every day but was not the best cook. Whenever we ate out or got takeaway food, it always tasted so much better. I kept wondering, ‘What is she doing wrong? Why can’t she make it delicious?’“When I was nine years old, I started helping her chop vegetables and crack eggs. By the time I was 12 years old, I could crack an egg with one hand. A year later, I went to secondary school…
  5. Is there any book that talks about fragrance evoking memories that does not mention French author Marcel Proust? Even those who haven’t read his Remembrance of Things Past know about its famous tea and madeleine scene.The smells Carol Selva Rajah recalls from her childhood sound a lot more enticing than what she calls Proust’s “soggy madeleine”.“My own childhood, spent in Malaysia and Singapore, abounds with fragrant memories which have inspired the recipes in this book and built up my…
  6. Salted eggs were almost certainly created as a way to preserve an abundance of eggs to eat when times were leaner. The best ones are duck eggs, because they are larger and have a richer, more oily yolk than those from chickens.It’s not difficult to make them – it just takes time. You put the uncooked whole eggs – shell and all – in a heavy saltwater brine in a tall jar or container, so the eggs have plenty of room to bob around.The brine penetrates the porous shell, and as the egg gets heavier…
  7. How did you get into cooking? “My parents divorced when I was 10 years old and my mum raised my older sister, brother and me. We lived in Chambray-lès-Tours, in France’s Loire Valley, and my mum had to take the train early in the morning for a two-hour commute to Paris and back every day for work for 18 years.“I ate lunch in the school canteen but the food was terrible. When I was 12 years old I asked my mum if I could go home and make lunch, because we lived 200 metres from school. I made…
  8. For Chinese-American chef Brandon Jew, it was the death of his beloved grandmother, Ying Ying, that led him away from Western fine dining and back to his roots.“I didn’t understand that I had to open Mister Jiu’s until Ying Ying – our name for our paternal grandmother in Toisanese – was diagnosed with cancer,” he writes in the introduction to Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown – Recipes and Stories from the Birthplace of Chinese American Food (2021), which he co-wrote with Tienlon Ho. “She was, at…
  9. Almost everybody loves mango – and often they have strong preferences for the varieties they believe to be best. I like almost all mangoes as long as the flesh is juicy, sweet and smooth.When checking for ripeness, you can’t rely only on your eyes. Some varieties turn mango-orange when ripe, others keep a greenish tinge.It’s better to smell the mango for ripeness, then double check by pressing on it with your fingertips – the flesh should yield gently; it should not be hard or mushy.After…
  10. How did you become interested in cooking? “I have loved eating since I was four years old. My favourite toy was a play kitchen. Every day, I woke my mother up and asked her what she wanted for breakfast and we would play for an hour.“When I grew up, I thought being a chef I could travel the world while cooking. At that time, chefs like Ferran Adrià, Carme Ruscalleda, Santi Santamaria and Joan Roca were on television, and people talked about restaurants in general.”What did your parents think of…