Singapore-born Shu Han Lee

Fresh out of the oven is this bubbly, irresistible cookbook from neophyte author Shu Han Lee. Shu’s only 25, and the look and feel of her debut cookbook reflect her age. The pages are peppered with cute illustrations that Lee did herself (she is also a talented graphic designer) and exude peppy youthfulness from the get-go. The DIY spirit is also reflected in the photography and food styling, which she also did herself.

The recipes are reflective of South-East Asian cuisine but also make use of the fresh seasonal produce available in the United Kingdom, where Shu now resides.

You’ll find all sorts of delectable recipes for things like sambal roasted aubergines, cold dressed tofu and fennel and minced pork. The fact that Shu makes use of local ingredients means that she employs innovation in her recipes and isn’t inflexible, which is in keeping with modern cooking trends – although purists might disagree with this somewhat.

Shu has also included lots of useful tips on ingredient variations, in case certain items cannot be found, which is especially helpful if you’re new to South-East Asian cuisine. At the back of the book, you’ll find a super-cute glossary (with illustrations) that offers practical information on Asian produce. Most of the recipes aren’t too technically difficult, so if you’re looking for a cookbook that offers a pain-free, fuss-free toe-dipping introduction to South-East Asian cuisine, this is your best bet.

Chicken and Rice: Fresh and Easy Southeast Asian Recipes From a London Kitchen
Author: Shu Han Lee
Publisher: Fig Tree
Price: RM110

The Star 2, Published: July 10, 2016
Cooking the books: Good enough to eat
By Abirami Durai

Can you tell us a bit more about your cookbook?

Chicken and Rice is a collection of Southeast Asian recipes with a strong focus on local seasonal ingredients – basically the way I cook! Growing up in a food-obsessed nation, and inspired by all that I learnt from working part-time at the farmers’ market in my student years, I’ve learnt to adapt traditional recipes with the best of what the UK has to offer that time of the year.

What excites you about the British food world at the moment?

Britain never was really known for food; I, for one, wasn’t thrilled about the food prospect when I first moved here. I think the general attitude in the past used to be one of apathy and what’s changed now is that people actually get excited about their food, and celebrate new flavours and techniques from other cultures. London, especially, has become such a fantastic melting pot of cultures from all around the world that we don’t bat an eye when we see things like kimchi on the menu.

What’s your comfort food?

Congee. It’s the best thing the day after a crazy night out, or after a holiday with too much rich indulgent foods.

If we had a look in your fridge, what would we be bound to find?

Coriander, miso, fermented shrimp paste, some kind of pickle, and leftovers from the night before because I always cook too much.

Are you from a family of great cooks? How did you get interested in cooking and food?

My mum is a brilliant cook. Being the eldest daughter, she started cooking for her whole family at the age of 10. I wish I could say I grew up throwing things into woks and pounding spice pastes, but Mum never let us into the kitchen. Like all Asian mums, she believed time should be spent on studying and the piano; and any chance I got to help her in the kitchen only came as a reward after I’ve finished my homework. I really only learnt to cook when I moved to London for my studies at Central Saint Martins. It’s a mixture of greed, hunger and curiosity that led me to cooking. I’m obsessed when I find something I’m passionate about, and would do long Skype sessions with Mum, or test 8 recipes for a dish till I find one I like.

Ten minutes with By Lottie Huckle – 15 Feb. 2016 10:12 AM
Exclusive Interview: Shu Han Lee's Chicken and Rice

Shu grew up in food-crazed Singapore, and continues her nation's obsession with food in London, where she writes and takes too many photos of food. She first moved here for her graphic design training at Central Saint Martins College, and by some inevitable force, ended up twirling noodles and pinching herbs to make food look and taste beautiful. By that same inevitable force, a lot of her design projects and products feature the edible.

Her food writing, styling and illustrations have appeared in Cereal Magazine, Delicious Magazine, The NY Times Diner's Journal, Great British Chefs, Honeycombers Asia, among other publications and platforms; and she has been named one of Britain's best food bloggers by The Sunday Times.

Her 'Noodles' classification system has appeared on Hong Kong Tatler, and her designs related to sustainable eating have been featured by The British Library. Shu went on to work as Wholegood's creative director to expand their brand presence in the London organic food market. She has also worked with various design studios for clients such as BBC, David Loftus, Natoora, and Yeo Valley Organic. Shu is currently pursuing her Business Masters at Imperial College London to merge her design and direction capabilities, and possibly stick her toe in future foodie ventures.

Once a month, or whenever she’s got too much energy, she puts on a chef's apron and finds herself hosting supperclubs, popups and workshops. Influenced by her old weekend job managing a farmer's market, she tends to cook with what's seasonal and local, even while making dishes from home. Her debut cookbook, Chicken and Rice (Fig Tree, Penguin Books), will be released in May 2016. Shu is already looking for the next fun delicious thing to work on.


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