Twenty-one years in the making, Cooking for the President–Reflections and Recipes of Mrs Wee Kim Wee is a unique and culturally important book. This is a readable and beautifully illustrated 556-page Peranakan (Straits-Chinese/Nonya) cookbook-cum-biography. It not only tells enthralling and inspiring stories about the author’s parents, President and Mrs Wee Kim Wee but is packed with great recipes featuring Mrs Wee’s incomparable cuisine and much more.... menus, general information on ingredients, kitchen equipment, glossary and indices.

Introduction to the Third Edition

Welcome to the third edition of Cooking for the President! This is a unique book. It is not an everyday cookbook with recipes but a book that captures a slice of social history. It contains the story about my parents: my father, Wee Kim Wee, the fourth President of Singapore (1985-1993), and my mother, Koh Sok Hiong, the First Lady of Singapore. The story traces their lives from childhood to when they returned to private life after the presidency. Many of the stories are related to food and entertaining and show that home-cooked food helped them make and enhance friendships throughout their lives.

This book was first published in November 2010. It was 21 years in the making. All the recipes were in my mother’s head, and she wanted the book published to enable people to try her granny’s and her cooking. The book contains recipes from four generations of women in our family, including mine. My mother not only fed me authentic Peranakan food throughout my life but also taught me how to cook and wanted me to pass on the information to others. During our creation of the book, she often reminded me of two things: “keep it simple but make sure it’s accurate”. I hope the reader will agree that my mother’s instructions to me have been adhered to.

Since none of the recipes had ever been written down, I laboured over each one – measuring every ingredient, and cooking and re-cooking each recipe until they were accurately recorded. I often had to go to four markets to source the right ingredients, cook the dish, choose the colour of the setting and crockery to display the food for the photo shoot and set up the display of the food itself. I took all the photos of the savoury dishes and desserts in the recipes section and the ingredients in the General Information section. I essentially wrote the texts. It was hard work but rewarding because I was helping my mother to fulfil her dream. My mother wanted to show people how to cook and eat Peranakan food (also known as nonya food, lauk embok-embok, or Straits-Chinese food).

The recipes are the same in all three editions. In the first edition, I put in a section called General Information. This is an important section on ingredients with photos to show the reader what they are, how to choose, and how to prepare them. In the second edition, I added a chapter on menu planning. In this third edition, I have added a chapter on alternative ingredients. I have made some edits in the last two editions, for example, teaching the reader certain techniques in kueh cutting.

This book has been described as monumental, magnificent, encyclopaedic and timeless but,  above all, to me, it is a book of love from a daughter to her mother (who taught her much) and her family (who were discerning critics and good cooks themselves).

 


 

Wee Eng Hwa