Why buy it?
Our childhoods are defining. For Chui Lee Luk, acclaimed Sydney chef and restaurateur, hers were spent in her aunt and grandmother’s kitchens tasting soups out of simmering pots, at hawker stalls devouring warm crispy banana fritters and at the markets, mesmerised by the magical shapes and intense colours of tropical fruit. With its cultural mix of Malay, British and Chinese, and inescapable steamy weather, Sabah, Malaysia, on the north-east tip of Borneo, was an impressionable place for a young child – one that spoke to all the senses and never let go.
In Green Pickled Peaches, her first cookbook, Lee Luk recounts these defining experiences. The vivid tales form a narrative that weave through the book and contextualise what inspires her cooking today, formerly at fine-dining Claude’s and now at Chow Bar and Eating House. Her writing, with detailed recipe introductions about how she’s conceived the dish, also reveals Lee Luk as an intensely thought-out, precise and passionate woman.
The book’s smart sensibility is further enhanced by the design, including captivating illustrations and modern graphic prints by Studio Racket. It’s a celebrity chef memoir-cookbook that trades fluff for substance, and of the elegance and ilk that we’d expect from a chef like Lee Luk.
The bulk of the recipes is from the chef’s decade-plus at Claude’s and Chow, with ingredient lists typically long and methods involved. Fans of Lee Luk who aren’t up for making restaurant fare are not excluded; dotted throughout the chapter are short and easy run-on recipes for Malaysian comfort- and street-food classics.
It’s hard to go past the one dish Lee Luk titled her book after: green pickled peaches. In a double-page recollection of her first encounter with the preserved fruit, she describes them as having “crisp crunch and the perfect balance of sweetness tempering sourness.”
Most surprising dish
Following a tale about festival days is an easy recipe for hand-cut potato chips. Despite its simplicity, Lee Luk, the artist and thinker, sees more to it. She calls it the ‘The Concept of Celebration’ – luxury in simple things done well – and encourages the reader to eat them with lardo and caviar.
In Lee Luk’s prelude: “I’d like to reveal what goes through my head when I’m planning a dish. I also want to encourage you to think independently and use my thoughts as the beginnings of your own explorations.”
Chui Lee Luk followers; celebrity-chef cookbook collectors; memoir-cookbook aficionados; restaurant chefs, Malaysian food lovers and design geeks.
Green Pickled Peaches: A Collection of Recipes and Memories, Chui Lee Luk (Hardie Grant, $59.95, hbk)
Read our extract from Green Pickled Peaches here.