Book review: Makan

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Elizabeth Haigh Singaporean cookbook Makan

Related tags: Elizabeth Haigh, Makan, Mei Mei, Singaporean cuisine, Asian cuisine, Cookbooks

Elizabeth Haigh’s debut cookbook sees the Mei Mei chef pull together recipes that have been handed down through multiple generations of her family, from nonya to nonya.

“It’s impossible to pinpoint a certain specific cuisine to one region, so when people ask me what type of food is Singaporean I simply reply with ‘the delicious type’.” Elizabeth Haigh is on the money with this statement, and nowhere does it ring truer than in Singapore, where South East Asian and Chinese cuisine are melded with multiple Western influences. The chef’s debut cookbook is necessarily authentically inauthentic, combining recipes from the Singaporean side of her family with her own culinary influences (her CV includes Smokehouse, Kitchen Table, and Pidgin, where she attracted a Michelin star).  

The result is a surprisingly accessible affair that balances familiar Asian dishes - including wok-fried noodles, satay, char siu, chicken noodle soup, and sweet and sour pork - with the less so. Makan strikes a good balance between accessibility and an authentic taste: there are some hard-to-find ingredients but there are some recipes for those without access to specialist suppliers and none of the techniques are chef-y or demanding, with the possible exception of the (admittedly brilliant sounding) smoked ox cheek rendang with bone marrow. 

Other standout dishes include Singapore chilli crab, nasi goreng and Hainanese chicken rice, the signature dish from her Borough Market restaurant Mei Mei. Makan is an exciting cookbook from an exciting chef (we named Haigh One to Watch back in 2017). What’s even more exciting is that this book represents just one side of her cooking. Her 2019 residency at Fitzrovia private members’ club Mortimer House involved many of the same flavours and influences but was more high-end and chef-y, and is a hint of what to expect when Haigh finally launches Shibui, her flagship restaurant concept that has been in the offing since she left Pidgin way back in 2016.

Bloomsbury Absolute, £26

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