Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan and a Thai Satay Recipe
By Sydaney Moog
Crazy Rich Asians is a hilarious, satirical novel about the lives of the insanely rich in Modern Singapore. Kevin Kwan takes us into lives where private jets, Paris couture fittings, impulse million dollar jewellery purchases are the norm and exclusive designer, clothes, shoes and handbags are part of their everyday vernacular.
To allow the reader to understand the extent of wealth described throughout the novel, the books prologue describes a situation where, on a trip to London to enrol one of the children into a boarding school, the children and their mothers are refused a room at an exclusive hotel by the hotel manager. Not looking or dressing like stereo-typical “money-ed” people, and in part due to their background, the families are advised that they have not booked a room and are essentially asked to leave the hotel. A quick call to one of the fathers to advise of the situation, results in the purchase of said hotel, with the manager being left with egg on his face.
Crazy Rich Asians follows the adventures of Rachel Chu, an accomplished ABC (American Born Chinese) economics professor who agrees to spend the summer holidays with her boyfriend, Nick Young, a handsome and easy-going history professor, who is returning home to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. Through Rachel’s time in Singapore, the novel offers an insight into the Westernisation of this Chinese culture, the globalisation of wealth and the representation of old versus new money.
Whilst I enjoyed the hilarious stories of Kwan’s characters and found the blasé attitude to money fascinating (flinging a 30carat diamond ring into the snow slopes as it was too vulgar and not even bothering to look for it), what I found most delightful about this book was the discussion, description and imagery of food. Food stories are interwoven throughout the novel with Nicholas setting the scene and luring Rachel to Singapore with
“… you’re going to flip out over the food! You do realize Singapore is the most food-obsessed country on the planet?”
And flip out she does.
“As Rachel tasted the char kuay teow, her eyes widened in delight at the rice noodles flash-fried with seafood, egg and bean sprouts in a dark soy sauce”
Whilst not discussing their various properties, their designer couture clothing, the companies they are acquiring or the differences in various private jets, the characters argue over the best places to eat and what their next meal is going to be.
“Welcome to Singapore, Rachel – where arguing about food is the national pastime,… This is probably the only country in the world where grown men can get into fist fights over which specific food stall….has the best rendition of some obscure fried noodle dish”.
As I read the novel, rather than dreaming of a life of unbelievable riches, I could not stop thinking about the food. Reading this book made me want to catch the first flight to Singapore (on a commercial flight in economy class *sigh*) in search of the food stalls, hawker markets and dining establishments described throughout. There is talk a-plenty about Singaporean satay being the best in the world, and as great as it is, I am loyal to my background and believe that Thai Satay is the best, so I have included a recipe below.
I recommend Crazy Rich Asians as a summer holiday read. It is a funny, easy read, transporting you to a world of excessiveness abundance. The innate charm of the characters makes the exaggerated stereotypes and the sometimes vulgar excessiveness tongue-in-cheek, hilarious and a great way to escape the “normality” of one’s own life.
THAI CHICKEN SATAY
This satay is a quick simple recipe that uses a few key ingredients to pack a flavourful punch. The secret to great satay sticks is to cook the sticks on a charcoal grill. The charcoal gives a char-ness and smokiness to the meat which unfortunately gas BBQ’s do not. I like to make it for BBQs, as I love the richness of the marinade, with one of my favourite things to do is drown the satay sticks in the peanut sauce. Serve with sliced cucumbers and eschallots in vinegar.
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 2 tbs curry powder
- ½ kgs chicken thigh fillets
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- BBQ sticks to skewer the chicken
Soak the bamboo skewers at least half an hour so that the ends do not burn on the grill.
Slice the chicken into thin strips.