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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

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  883 ratings  ·  131 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."
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  883 ratings  ·  131 reviews

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Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I love to cook, and I love Asian food. I was also born in a Year of the Tiger, so this sounded like it would be just my drop.
However, I guess my age is showing because I found myself being more annoyed by the author than anything else. She not only name-drops, she status-drops. Constantly. Not only does she make sure we know that her cooking friends are top chefs in the most expensive restaurants of whatever country they happen to live in; all the restaurants she describes herself visiting are (
Dec 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012, library, food
"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
Sep 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel-memoir
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
Aug 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: foodie, memoir
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
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
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food-literature
I came across this randomly while browsing the food literature section of the library and was intrigued by the prospect of a memoir of Singaporean food and family. What I liked about this book: it is about food. And I could connect with the context - educated and Westernised female who took her grandmother's cooking for granted as a child and never took an interest in food preparation wishes, as an adult, to be able to create and taste those familiar recipes again.

What I disliked: the writing.
Mar 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Cat Chiappa
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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!
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's good I'm done with this book because reading it on my bus ride home from work made me ravenous every day. I want to go to Singapore and eat all the food. Cheryl describes her family and her cooking adventures in such a vibrant way, I truly felt attached to everyone and connected to her search for her place in a culture she had been so far removed from. A really fun enjoyable read. I'm so glad I grabbed it on a whim at the library.
Ellen McGinnis
Apr 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa Hura
Jan 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-harder-2016
Didn't finish, I think it's the first book ever that put me to sleep as efficiently as this one did. The text could benefit from some editing.
Помните, я писала пост «Что мне нужно прочитать до конца года»? Речь идёт о челлендже с сайта любителей чтения Book Riot. В рамках одного из заданий нужно было найти и прочитать книгу автора из Юго-Восточной Азии, а в рамках другого 'food memoir'. Как все любители прокрастинировать, я отложила эти книги в дальний ящик, пока не поняла, что времени вообще уж
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
"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
Sep 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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
TS Tan
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking, memoir
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
Aug 08, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Lisa Ard
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 100-in-2011
2011 Book 86/100

A memoir of food and family - well told and beautifully evocative of the Sinagporean dishes that the author has returned to her home country to learn to make (from her amazingly talented aunties, now that her grandmother has died). I was very glad that we had reservations at the Red Pearl Kitchen for dinner after reading this book -- where we feasted on similiar dishes and I could pretend they were being prepared with half as much love and care as the dishes detailed in this love
Oct 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking
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.
Jane Long
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I want to try all the recipes after reading this book about the author finding her cooking heritage. I feel inspired to find out more about my grandmother’s recipes.

I did really enjoy reading this!
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A friend recommended this to me and I'm glad she did: a really fun read
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Great to read about Singaporean food, but the book was disjointed and Tan wasn't meant to be a food writer - she lost me when she started talking about how she didn't want to ruin her manicure while cooking.
Jan 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
I very rarely rate books this low, and try to just as rarely write a negative review. My main reason for the latter is understanding how human nature works. If someone dislikes a book or something else, and sees your glowing review, they'll shrug their shoulders or maybe roll their eyes, and move on. Criticize something that they love, and you trigger defensive mechanisms. However, I also understand another thing about human nature, and that is the fact that a significant portion of any opinion ...more
Mria Quijada
Mar 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
'We' often refers to her aunt's maid or some other hired help doing the actual cooking.
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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
“Having a mind that cannot stay quiet, I've never been able to meditate without going stir-crazy. But give me a ball of dough and the not-so-distant dream of a piping hot cherry tart with a beautiful lattice-weave top and a generous sprinkling of confectioners sugar, and a feeling of serenity washes over me. My mind instantly hushes.” 0 likes
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