I picked up a copy of Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan* after hearing the author interviewed on NPR about the movie adaptation. I figured: if I'm going to see the movie - because after hearing the interview, I definitely wanted to see it - I'd like to read the book first.
On the Page
Rachel and Nick are professors in New York who have been dating for over two years. He invites her to accompany him home - to Singapore - to attend a wedding. There she meets his crazy rich family...and she had no idea the wealth from which he came.
"Everyone knew that DatoTai Toh Lui made his first fortune the dirty way by bringing down Loong Ha Bank in the early eighties, but in the two decades since, the efforts of his wife Datin Carol Tai, on behalf of the right charities had burnished the Tai name into one of respectablity. Every Thursday, for instance, the datin held a Bible study luncheon for her closest friends in her bedroom, and Eleanor Young was sure to attend. Carol's palatial bedroom was not actually in the sprawling glass-and-steel structure everyone living along Kheam Hock Road nicknamed the 'Star Trek House.' Instead, on the advice of her husband's security team, the bedroom was hidden away in the pool pavilion, a white travertine fortress..." (pg. 22).
That's the world Rachel unwittingly enters. And it's one in which she definitely doesn't fit comfortably.
One thing I will say that was enjoyable were the descriptions of the food. Food and feasting were a highlight for me. When Rachel first arrives in Singapore, the couple who are getting married pick them up at the airport and immediately take them to a hawker center. Each vendor specializes in a single dish and only makes that. Diners move from one stall to the next to pick create their meals. Colin offers to order whatever looks interesting to Rachel.
"'Welcome to Singapore, Rachel - where arguing about food is the national pastime,' Araminta declared. 'This is probably the only country in the world where grown men can get into fistfights over which specific food stall in some godforsaken shopping center has the best rendition of some obscure fried noodle dish. It's like a pissing contest!'"(pg. 114).
Sotong Bakar (Grilled Squid)
This isn't one of the dishes mentioned in the book. There was a few that I am going to try to make soon. But I had some squid and found a Singaporean recipe for grilled squid. Of course this is my own version. So, don't think this is traditional; I'm sure Nick's family would be mortified. Haha. Sorry. But it's something I could envision one of the vendors making and selling in a hawker center.
- 1/2 to 3/4 lb fresh market squid, cleaned (I used only the tubes for this recipe)
- freshly ground salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 C coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari
- 3 T mirin
- 2 T minced fresh ginger or ginger paste
- 1 1/2 C organic creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 C organic coconut milk
- 3 T water
- 3 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 T coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari
- 1 T fish sauce
- 1 T hot sauce (feel free to add more if you prefer more heat)
- 1 T minced fresh ginger or ginger paste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
In a small mixing bowl, blend all of the ingredients together until smooth. Adjust for heat, as needed. You may like yours more spicy.
Mix together the coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari, ginger, and mirin in a large bowl to make the marinade. Set aside.
SquidPlace squid tubes in a large pot. Cover them with water. Make sure they are submerged by at least 1" of water. Bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, drain the squid.
Place the squid in the bowl with the marinade. Marinate the squid for, at least, 10 minutes at room temperature, turning once halfway through.
Preheat your grill or grill pan. Grill the squid for about 2 minutes on each side, weighing them down (I usually place a pot lid on top of them) to get the nice grill marks.
The squid will turn from translucent to opaque. Take care not to overcook as squid turns rubbery if grilled too long. Move the grilled squid to a serving plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with the peanut sauce.
Here's what everyone else read in August 2018: here.