We speak with a local blogger who’s come out with a fab new cookbook to help helpers in the kitchen!
We’re always excited when we hear about a new Singapore cookbook, and the news of A Helping Hand: Delicious Recipes in English and Tagalog was certainly no exception! Written by British mama (and occasional Sassy contributor!) Rowena ‘Frog’ Michaels (best known as popular blogger Changmoh), it’s a wonderful collection of both local and Western recipes that’s already become a hit in kitchens across Singapore (I speak from personal experience: my own helper’s eyes lit up when she saw it on the dining room table and she’s been excitedly trying out recipes ever since — try the delish Chicken Curry!).
Not only does the book come from a place of understanding and empathy, but Frog donates proceeds from each and every book sale to the local charity HOME, which advocates for the empowerment of migrant workers in Singapore. So this is definitely a book to feel good about, mama!
We chatted with Frog to find out a bit more about how the book came to be, insights on her favourite recipes, and even some awesome insider tips on shopping the local markets. Plus we’ve got all the deets on where you can find the book (and its forthcoming companion web series)!
What inspired you to write this cookbook? How long has it been in the works?
It’s been in the works for just over three years. The concept evolved almost overnight when we were in France one summer holiday and I was cooking from the French cookbook Cuisine du Monde that I found lying around the house we had rented. My French is pretty proficient but I struggled horribly with all the cooking terminology that lay within its food-spattered pages. It was even more thrilling that a cookbook like this hadn’t yet reached the shores of Singapore (or Hong Kong, Dubai or Malaysia, for that matter).
How did you go about choosing which recipes to include?
It was tough. I began with the notion of having 120 recipes but during the translation process (they were translated in Manila), I quickly realised I was going to end up with an incredibly heavy, unwieldy book. I whittled them down to 86 of my favourites; that number worked as it seemed to cover almost everything ‘essential’ without being too enormous a volume.
If you had to name your favorite recipe in the book, which would it be? Why?
In terms of my local Singapore recipes (I have a chapter dedicated to Singapore classic dishes), it would be the Mee Goreng which is from my husband’s Nyonya great grandmother and a heritage family recipe I feel very lucky to have and be able to share.
In terms of my Western recipes, I love the Roast Pork Belly – which is amazingly easy to cook (and eat!) thanks to it being such a fatty, forgiving cut. It’s a great dinner party staple in our house. Serve it in neat little rectangles – to distance it from any lingering lunchtime connotations – alongside creamy mashed potato, creamed spinach and apple sauce. The best bit? To use this book your helper doesn’t need any previous cooking experience.
NB: For tips on buying pork belly here’s some insider info: I’m a fan of Ghim Moh wet market, which is home to pork butcher Ah Kuang. He does a roaring trade so if you don’t arrive early enough, expect a queue around the block BUT if you only want one or two items, WhatsApp him the day before on (+65) 9474 3191 and you can cut the queue when you come to collect. His stall number is #01-143/145 and his pork belly is great value and great quality.
Did you work in consultation with your helper or other helpers when putting the book together?
Yes in terms of us cooking the dishes together and doing the initial recipe testing together. I also had a raft of friends’ helpers who were wonderful second and third testers (sometimes we even tested a recipe four times). It was a total team effort to make these dishes fail-safe!
You earned your moniker ‘Changmoh’ due to your insistence upon paying local prices at the market. What’s your #1 bargaining tip for intimidated mamas?
Smile! That way you are approaching market shopping in the right frame of mind: it’s meant to be fun! I still love going to the wet market and have been known to rise as early as 6am on a Sunday just to beat the crowds. It’s OK to bargain if you’re buying more than one of something – but remember to do it with grace.
Lastly, I’ve been dying to ask: where does the name ‘Frog’ come from?
When I was little my eyes were the same size that they are now (ie big!) and my face was small. I looked like a frog!
Thanks, Frog! A Helping Hand is available for $39.90 (excluding GST) at local bookstores including Kinokuniya and Books Actually. You can also find it at The Butcher and Da Paolo Gastronomia (Cluny Court and Paragon locations), or buy it online through the link below. Check out the website for a full list of stockists, mama!