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A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family
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A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family

3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  515 ratings  ·  96 reviews
"Starting with charred fried rice and ending with flaky pineapple tarts, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan takes us along on a personal journey that most can only fantasize about--an exploration of family history and culture through a mastery of home-cooked dishes. Tan's delectable education through the landscape of Singaporean cuisine teaches us that food is the tie that binds."
ebook, 288 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Hyperion (first published January 27th 2011)
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I liked this book, but did not love it. My review echoes others here- where, oh, where was her editor? This book needed a GOOD editor so badly. There is so much that is good in this book,her sense of humor, candid comments, her interest in cooking, and in her case this involves reconnecting with her Singaporean family and learning more about her own ancestry along with cooking some really challenging dishes. Tan's exploration of food and family bring her to some realizations about why she embark ...more
This is an inspiring, funny, and hunger-inducing memoir about a young woman who goes back to her Singaporean roots and begs her Aunties to teach her to cook. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, a feisty, intelligent, and rebellious Chinese girl, grew up with more freedom and independence then most young Chinese women. She left Singapore for college in the US at age 18 and was quickly westernized in her views and beliefs. At 30 years old she finds herself jobless in New York, increasingly out of touch with her C ...more
I enjoyed this book more for the insight into the Singaporean culture than the descriptions of the food, even though those descriptions were richly detailed. Food has such a strong emotional pull in families of any culture and can bring out so many memories, good and bad. The stories of Tan's family and their lives in Singapore were what bound the work like the 5 spice blend present in many of the recipes. It was heartwarming to see how Tan's quest to learn how to make the foods that filled her ...more
Tan's humorous and hunger-evoking memoir chronicled the year she left her Brooklyn apartment for her family back in Singapore. Tan moved to the US for university at 18 and while she'd been back for visits over the years, she'd never spend any time in the kitchen with her grandmothers, aunts, or mother. Once she's back in Singapore, she learns about her late-paternal grandmother's hard life and her maternal grandmother's sad marriage. Even Tan's own father led a complicated life, but after 270 pa ...more
"A bowl of porridge – a hallmark of traditional Teochew cuisine – appeared. The water was just slightly milky, the grains of rice soft, yet still separate and not so soft that they were mushed together, as they often can be in lesser versions. The porridge was simple and clean – a lovely canvas for the subtle dishes that would follow. A giant steamed fish came prepared with silvers of ginger and swimming in a slightly sweet broth with tinges of the tomatoes and sour plums that had been steeped i ...more
In theory, I should be the biggest fan of this book. It hits all the topics that I enjoy: food, immigrant life, reconnecting to family history. When Cheryl Lu-lien Tang wrote about being an overachieving student in Singapore who then had to move to the US to study and missing certain foods, it reminded me of my own experience since I had to go through a similar situation.

That being said, I don't think this book was ready for prime time. As other reviewers have noted, the chapters are somewhat di
Oh, I wanted to like this. (And then I wanted to show it to my mom, who is visiting this next week, because it sounds like something right her alley.) But no. Alas.

First and foremost, this book needs a big ol' editor. I can see how Tan conceived of this project - I'll learn to cook traditional dishes and learn about my culture and family, and grow as a person! - but what we get instead is a mish-mash of her confused thoughts (plus lots of bonus tangents and diversions). She is your typical overl
I’ve read a lot of memoirs that relate to cooking and the connection between food and family (my favorite being Trail of Crumbs), however, this book just seemed flat, and dare I say, missing some key ingredients?

For me the book was a bit disorganized and inconsistent. While learning to cook during one of her visits to Singapore, Cheryl complains how nearly impossible it is to keep pace with the plethora of mixing, measurements and ingredients, but in the very next sentence, she talks about what
I wonder if we are related...I have Tan family in Singapore. I can relate so well to everything that Cheryl wrote in this book. I too left family to go abroad to study and have missed the wonderful food from back home. I found her book easy to ready, could relate to every word and could savour and smell all the food she was describing. This was the first book I bought online for my KOBO and was worth it. I hope to attempt some of the recipes that she included in the book. More than anything else ...more
I have almost nothing in common with the Singapore writer of this book. I married young, started my family early, and both my husband and I have Southern roots. But like her, food is a big part of my family tradition. Reading her journey to discovery her culinary heritage reminded me of the big family traditions we had back in Texas and the meals I enjoyed at my grandparents homes. It also made me a little hungry, but not super hungry, because I'm not quite sure I wanted to sample all these reci ...more
Cat Chiappa
This book made me hungry! I really enjoy food memoirs and this was a good one. I did find myself getting a little lost for a bit somewhere in the middle as there was a point where there were more descriptions of food prep and less story but then it picked up again. I was drawn to this book as I will be visiting Singapore for the first time this fall and I definitely took note of some places to go eat. If you like food memoirs, then you should pick this one up!
I enjoyed the book because I can relate to it, sort of. It made me wish I had asked my mother to teach me more about cooking. The only part that made me want to scream is when she talks about the cheong sam being a dress worn by Chinese Singaporeans. It's worn by all chinese women, not just the ones who live in Singapore.

She does share the recipes she got from her relatives, so that is a bonus.
Ellen McGinnis
Really loved this! The author's physical journey to Singapore to learn to cook from her Aunties turns into a journey of self-discovery and a reunion with family. Her voice is personal, clear and often funny. Great read.
The book STARTED out promising. Like, HEY, I can understand someone who grew up without learning how to cook. And hey, the story sounds really interesting, let's hear about your journey to learn the foods from your homeland.

.. and all I can remember from her writing is how she is grossed out by any animal parts that have a face, or how she lets her (poor) husband do all the prep work so she can just uh.. show up and eat it. LAME.

Sorry, if I want to read about navel gazing, I'd read Eat, Pray, Lo
Ashland Mystery Oregon
A nice culinary roots read, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan returns to Singapore to learn the family recipes. Grandmothers and aunties and finally her own mother (through the maid) free Cheryl from rote recipe writing to tasting and adjusting spices. Cheryl and her father return to a remote, rural Chinese village where the now-American woman is disrespectful in her cultural ignorance at the all-male gathering. Good narrative of the culinary traditions there too.

--Ashland Mystery

I spent many happy hours reading this fascinating, funny, heart-warming book. Tiger in the Kitchen is a great choice for anyone interested in Singapore, travel, culture, families or food.

Like Amy Chua who wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, author Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan was born in the Year of the Tiger which is supposed to make her dynamic and aggressive. It is certainly true in Tan's case. As a child in Singapore she was always ambitious and never interested in girl pursuits like cooking, but h
"I was born in the year of the Tiger with a lucky star over my head and a knife in my hand." (p.7) This is how Tan introduces us to her childhood in Singapore. After a childhood of generational intent and dreams, Tan shows a life full of ambition and food. While she was happy to build her life in New York, Tan missed her home dishes even as she learned to appreciate meatloaf and bread. After her grandmother's death, she realizes that she has no concept of the dishes she grew up with and makes pl ...more
Sadly, this is one of the few less-than-three-star reviews I have written, and so I feel I need to do a little explaining on why -- especially since so many readers evidently did enjoy A Tiger in the Kitchen. I read a short review of the book, and then "won" an uncorrected proof copy to read and review. I certainly could identify with the general premise of the book: 30-something woman starts to feel too unconnected to her roots, and worries that the history and traditions of her family might be ...more
I've enjoyed reading quite a few food related books by the likes of Ruth Reichl, Anthony Bourdain, and Julie Powell's Julie and Julia. It's with this last book that I think this book will most often be compared but it is so much more.

Cheryl Tan, born in Singapore but living in New York City has begun to miss the flavors of her childhood food but has absolutely no idea where to begin to replicate them. So she sets out on a mission to visit her family members and to learn how to prepare the favori
A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family made me hungry. Really hungry. I love Asian food of all sorts, and listening to author Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan describe these family favorites in such loving detail made me want to try to make them myself, because I just knew takeout was going to be a disappointment. Dumplings, soups and special desserts, often tied to holiday celebrations and memories of family dinners, are all on the menu in her book, subtitled “A Memoir of Food and Family.” Her a ...more
I've seen some criticism of this because of poor editing. The author does have a very informal style which one could dissect for style and grammar---but the book was so much fun! I didn't have the heart to try to analyze its grammar. I was too involved in the author's memories of food during her childhood in Singapore, and her quest to learn how to cook her family's recipes. And she included recipes! This was a great book, I loved the author's sense of humor, and how I wish I could do something ...more
TS Tan
As a fellow Singaporean, I really enjoyed this account of back-to-mother's/auntie's/grandma's cooking adventure. I suspected the readers that derived the greatest joy are the Singaporeans who are around the same age group as the author, with grandmas, aunties and mothers who had whipped wondrous dishes that are the consequences of the magical melange of Singapore culture, and then had to embark on their careers, paying scant attention to the kitchen. While I did enjoy the author's account of her ...more
I picked this up and thought " memoir...sounds promising." Tan's life is certainly interesting, but the writing is underdeveloped in many spots. She learns a lot about the two sides of her family in Singapore from taking a year off of work after being laid off and learning all of her favorite childhood recipes. I can't even put my finger on what was missing, but she skips around with themes so often that sections read disjointedly.

There's the theme of having and raising a child tha
Lisa Ard
Reading A Tiger in the Kitchen feels like sitting down to tea with an old friend and listening to her stories of life, food, culture and family. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan has an easy, humble way of telling her story.

Growing up in Singapore, she was destined for great things. Yet after years as a successful journalist in the United States, she feels a longing. Following her instincts she returns periodically over the next year to learn the dishes of her childhood from various women in her family. Along
Literary Mama
When Tan loses her job as a fashion journalist for The Wall Street Journal, she turns to investigating her family's food heritage. A native of Singapore living and working in the United States and homesick for the food of her childhood, Tan makes several trips back to her homeland to visit and cook with her extended family, particularly with those women who learned to cook from Tan's late paternal grandmother. Tan does a good job of illustrating the range and depth of her native country's food o ...more
I related to everything in this book! Like Cheryl, I was born in the year of the tiger, studied in the US and became interested in cooking only in the past few years. I'm even Teochew! This book captures the Singaporean family and our intense passion for food perfectly. It may seem fragmented, like what some reviewers have noted, but I think that was done on purpose. It's not supposed to be a story that flows from point A to point B. It's a story made up of memories of Cheryl's childhood (and ad ...more
While the title of A Tiger in the Kitchen may bring to mind the much less savory (no pun intended…) Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mom, this autobiography is a great blend of mouthwatering food writing interwoven with glimpses into Tan’s familial background and Singaporean-Chinese heritage.

Cheryl Tan comes across as delightfully and refreshingly humorous and humble in her memoir of food and family. I found her attempt at making her husband’s favorite—cinnamon rolls—especially amusing; her friend descri
Nelda Brangwin
For anyone interested in searching out their food heritage, Tan's book will be a fun and mouth-watering read. Told with humor, Cheryl left her home in Singapore and ended up in New York City writing the fashion pages for the Wall Street Journal. She began to cook, becoming involved in a bread baking challenge with people from around the world. Not satisfied with this she decided to explore her food heritage after being laid off. Trips between NYC and Singapore reacquainted with family on both he ...more
I love memoirs, cookbooks, and travel books, so I enjoyed this book very much. I knew nothing about Singapore, so enjoyed learning about the culture there as the author built connections to her family history by learning to cook her family's favorite meals.
Jean Truitt
It was an intriguing stroll down memory lane reminding me of the fantastic foods of our Singapore sojourn. The story was interesting to a degree, but certainly not compelling nor do I expect it will be particularly memorable as time passes.
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Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is a New York City-based food and fashion writer whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, InStyle, Marie Claire, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Family Circle, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and many other outlets.

She is a regular contributor to the Atlantic Food Channel. Born and raised in Singapore, Tan graduated from Northwestern Unive
More about Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan...
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