Epigram Books Blog

Interview with Doctor Leslie Tay May 20 2014

It’s not easy to beat the food guide that has been dubbed “the best guide for serious street food aficionados” by Cuisine & Wine Asia’s Peter Knipp, but Dr Leslie Tay has done it again with the revised and updated edition of Only The Best! The ieatishootipost Guide to Singapore’s Shiokest Hawker Food.

In Only The Best!, Dr Leslie Tay takes his readers with him to taste the best of Singapore’s hawker food. The guide categorises these mouth-watering hawker dishes into 30 categories, ranging from the ever-popular Hainanese chicken rice to the slowly vanishing, traditional handmade muah chee. In this second edition, Dr Tay continues his quest to introduce the best hawker food, including new additions to the already comprehensive selection. This book is all one needs to discover the very best hawker food that Singapore has to offer.

Our marketing team here at Epigram Books managed to catch up with Dr Leslie Tay despite his numerous commitments. (Did you know that Dr Tay is a doctor, blogger, photographer, public speaker AND an author?)

Hi Leslie, how have you been recently?

Oh, I’m not really doing anything special at the moment, just working the usual routine—seeing patients in the morning and exploring food places in the afternoons.

Wow, just ‘the usual’ huh? I believe all of us here at Epigram Books are really curious about how you juggle your commitments as a doctor, author, food blogger, photographer and speaker, as well as your various media appearances.

(Laughs) When you are doing things that you are passionate about, they don’t feel like commitments.  Writing about food and taking pictures of them are just my idea of fun.

Being a doctor is to follow your passion of helping others while writing about local hawker food is to focus on your passion of our local food dishes. Do you think it is possible to combine them and get the best of both worlds?  

Actually they do overlap!  When I write about a stall, leading to the forming of longer queues, I usually get a nice phone-call from the hawker, thanking me for my help.  So in both medicine and food blogging I find that I can help people! However, these two activities do differ in terms of which part of the brain is active. Medicine is more of a left brain activity which relies on the analytical aspect of the mind while food blogging is more of an artistic right brain activity. Being able to do both brings balance to my life.

Singapore hawker food is known for its easy availability, short waiting time and general low pricing. What do you think of the Ultimate Hawker Fest—organised by you last year—which attempts to bridge the gap between cheap, low-pricing hawker food, and more expensive, better quality restaurant food?

The Ultimate Hawker Fest was an event where we invited local hawkers to cook their dishes, but with a twist. On that day itself, we provided them with top quality ingredients to prove that hawker dishes are not inferior to the expensive dishes we pay for in restaurants. After all, ramen is a common hawker food in Japan but when sold at Ramen restaurants, they can easily cost 20 dollars or more. With the rising prices in Singapore, Singaporeans cannot expect hawker food to remain cheap and still be able to deliver quality.

Some of the hawker dishes are doing rather well and have prospects for growth, as they can afford to sell at higher prices. Dishes such as chicken rice, bak kut teh and zi char can sell at more than the average $3 and have higher profitability. However, dishes such as char kway teow, which require individual time, effort, using only very low cost ingredients, will not be able to remain profitable for long. Also, dishes that can be cooked in a centralised manner such as fish ball noodles with the same fish ball distributor will also have a profitable future in Singapore. There are in fact, a lot of young people breaking into the Singapore hawker scene, as the risk is lower. The main concern however, is how to get them to cook local hawker food instead of hopping on to the “Aston’s” bandwagon.

How do you think we can preserve this food culture of Singapore, which is one of the reasons for Singapore’s popularity among travellers?

We can preserve and reinvent the recipes of our forefathers, cooking these existing dishes even better than them and catering them to the changes of society.

Many consider hawker food to be a dying trade, due to the younger generation being unwilling to take up this career, plus, the disapproval of their parents. As a parent yourself to James and Megan, do you see yourself allowing them to pursue a career in hawker food?

I have always told them that in whatever they do, as long as they are number 1, they will be rewarded for their effort.  The same is true of hawker food. In society, everybody has a different passion and people should find jobs according to their passions. If my kids have a passion in this area, they can certainly pursue it with all their heart.

Your latest book, Only The Best! (2nd Edition), contains revised locations of certain hawker stores, as well as new recommendations for hawker food. Do you have anything else to say to your readers about this new-and-improved food guide?

There are not many food guides out there that take eight years to write! I made it a point to visit all the stalls myself to make sure that I only recommend the best stalls in order that our readers don’t waste their calories on yucky food. I hope that it achieves its goal.

Since we are on the topic of the Only The Best! food guide, why don’t you tell us three of YOUR favourite local hawker dishes that you featured in your guide?

Fried Hokkien mee from Geylang Lor 29, bak kut teh from Founder at Rangoon Road and char kway teow from Hillstreet Char Kway Teow.

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Only The Best! The ieatishootipost Guide to Singapore’s Shiokest Hawker Food (2nd edition) is available in most major bookstores. Or get your hands on it here. To see the many more things Dr Leslie Tay is up to—or to feast your eyes on whatever he’s eating—visit his food blog, ieatishootipost.

Apart from being an established author, doctor, speaker and photographer, Dr Leslie Tay is also involved in doing his best to contribute to the less fortunate. Profits from his events are usually donated to Goducate to help the poor, help themselves.


Book Launch: ‘Mum's Not Cooking, Favourite Singaporean Recipes for the Plain Clueless and Plain Lazy’ July 30 2012

Guess what! Awesome chef and talented writer Denise Fletcher is our guest blogger for this week!
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Mum’s Not Cooking : The Aftermath

I’d like to say a really big thank you, to all who attended the official Mum’s Not Cooking book launch at Kinokuniya, last week on Saturday 21 July. I was a bundle of nervous energy, full of anticipation, anxious that I might trip up, twist my ankle (damned stilletoes *grrr* damn you and your Amazonian stature Michelle *GRRR*) or kill someone with my fiery curry devil, but in the end, it was all good, save one casualty, my favourite cuff bracelet. One of the glittery panels got knocked out by an enthusiastic handshake (thanks Jos, for babysitting my ‘jewel’ while I took to the mic). Makes me wonder what the guy had for breakfast, that morning…

Speaking of enviably tall women, did you know that Mum’s Not Cooking is now available on Amazon.com??!  Yes, yes, I’m doing a little happy dance right now, because wherever in the world you may be, my fellow Singies, you no longer have to miss your chai tow kway, nasi lemak or sup kambing!! Anyway, back to the book launch… I got the chance to channel my oh-so-shy son Joseph, star of my slideshow on how to make Chocolate Chip Mug Cake, talk about why I wrote Mum’s Not Cooking, why it’s such a great little book, and banter with the lovely, vivacious and very tall Michelle (Epigram Books’ uber marketing assistant and sparkling event host).

Iron chefs, NOT! but, from left, the quick thinking Josephine, gallant Fernando and very young and promising Gabrielle.Iron chefs, NOT! but, from left, the quick thinking Josephine, gallant Fernando and very young and promising Gabrielle.

As hoped, I met friends, readers, relatives, curious strangers and book fans, talked, talked, talked then talked some more, presided over an acar making contest, tasted the efforts of the contestants then made a hard decision on who produced the best rendition of my acar recipe (a nine-year-old budding chef who got the flavour spot on). Thank you Josephine the knife virgin and improv genius who ditched the blunt knife in favour of her nimble fingers, Fernando, present day incarnation of Sir Galahad who thought nothing of helping out a damsel in distress, even at the cost of winning, and Gabrielle, pickle prodigy and upcoming chef, for being such great sports and adding a ton of fun to the contest.

After the excitement of the contest, samples of Mum’s Not Cooking recipes––Cottage Pie, Devilled Sausages and Breakfast Banana Muffins were passed around the appreciative crowd, who made short work of them. The all too short hour ended with a book signing session.

It was such a pleasure chatting with the lovely people who waited patiently to get their copies signed, for spouses, sweethearts, siblings, friends, children, parents or themselves. Thank you each and everyone of you, for attending and spending the hour with me, and for your wonderful support of the event and Mum’s Not Cooking! I hope you enjoy using the book as much as I relished writing it and that if you were before, you will no longer be a stranger to your stove.

 


Direct From Boston Recipe Test Report: Bak Chor Mee for First Time Cooks May 28 2012

Our interns form an integral part of the Epigram Books family. We entrust them with important duties like keeping the marketing and editorial teams sane. We also feed them regularly. However, because they’ve been so pampered by us, often when they leave us for the great big world, they find themselves ill-equipped to handle simple things like feeding themselves properly!

Siau Rui was with Epigram Books for a short four weeks, but we’ve kept in touch with her through Facebook and emails. As such, when our Marketing Manager came up with the idea of trying out some of the recipes in our upcoming cookbook, Mum’s Not Cooking: Favourite Singapore Recipes for the Near Clueless or Plain Lazy by Denise Fletcher, she immediately thought of our dear ex-intern, far far away from her family in Singapore, with very little culinary skills to speak off. A perfect guinea pig.

Siau Rui is actually studying in Vermont, but did her report from Boston where she was visiting her sister during spring break.

Goh Siau Rui, International Student
Boston, USA

I was actually pretty psyched when Felicia got in touch about trying out a recipe from Mum’s Not Cooking: Favourite Singapore Recipes for the Near Clueless or Plain Lazy. I mean, I’m not proud of the fact but the sub-title describes me perfectly. I hit my (hopefully) lowest point  (food-wise) this summer in the US when I gave up trying to eat like a normal person and just snarfed down mint Oreos for dinner (don’t judge––we all make bad decisions). Anyway, because some Chemistry major told me that our metabolism starts to slow down and our body becomes increasingly intolerant of junk food once we hit 25, I’ve decided to try cooking some…Bak Chor Mee!!

It is probably the food I miss the most here. You just can’t find it in the US––not even in New York City, which is supposed to have everything. I checked out the recipe for Bak Chor Mee in Mum’s Not Cooking and it seems fairly simple––no chopping, no frying––just mixing and boiling. So far so good!

But first––ingredients. A bunch of my friends cook regularly so most of the ingredients are already on hand––I just needed to get chilli garlic oil and the Mee (noodles). It’s a good thing that it’s Spring Break and I was visiting my sister in Boston!

I went by Chinatown’s C-market (the big one), but they only have chilli garlic sauce. Why!?

I got some chilli oil instead––

But how to make chilli garlic oil? There was information in the recipe on how to make it from scratch (i.e. making the chilli oil from scratch too) but I wasn’t sure about the measurements now that I already have chili oil…so I just mixed the chopped garlic into a random amount of chilli oil that looks right. Seemed to work.

The minced pork. Because I was doubling the recipe, I was working with way more meat. Cue bigger bowl. As it turned out, the bigger bowl didn’t fit into the microwave oven. Bummer. So the bowl didn’t rotate and the meat wasn’t evenly cooked. Also, I had forgotten to cover the bowl. I felt pretty ‘lame’. But I transferred the meat into a smaller bowl and covered it this time––it still came out of the microwave oven weird. Too much liquid. Looked a little goopy. I threw the meat into a pan and it ended up looking…okay. I didn’t really know though, I’ve never really cooked meat before so I was just guessing.

Then I made the noodles and put everything in a bowl. It tasted decent! Better than my laksa attempt that ended up looking and tasting like mee rebus. The chili oil has a crazy kick (probably because my proportions are all off) and the pork was a little overpowering (probably because of the weird process I put it through) but it tasted close enough to the real thing. I got a neutral response (not a lambasting!) from my fellow Singaporean and a thumbs-up from my Malaysian friend (apparently they don’t have bak chor mee/meepok in Malaysia?). Also, no one got food poisoning. Good enough I suppose. Maybe I can actually be a real person and start cooking real food someday soon, especially now that I have a copy of Mum’s Not Cooking!


‘Uncle Lau's Teochew Recipes’ March 28 2012

Announcing our latest culinary title: Uncle Lau’s Teochew Recipes. Written by chef and food consultant Tan Lee Leng, this book lets home cooks create the classic light soups, steamed seafood courses, and other delicacies for which the Teochews are renowned, as well as original dishes exclusive to the author’s own family.

Featuring step-by-step instructions for over 80 recipes, Uncle Lau is the latest book in our award-winning Heritage Cookbook series, which includes time-tested recipes for South Indian, Cantonese, Peranakan and Eurasian cuisines.

Please visit this book page to learn more about Uncle Lau. This title will be available in bookstores at the end of April 2012.

Sample recipes:


A Day in the Life of Sok Wan March 28 2012

Rejoice! It's the latest of instalment of A Day In The Life. Sok Wan talks about her life of Editing and spills the beans on our top-secret upcoming launches.
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One of the perks of my job is that I often get to meet and work with some very interesting people, with fascinating stories and backgrounds. Tomorrow I will be meeting Ernest Goh, the photographer behind The Fish Book, to discuss on future marketing plans for the book, and he will also be showing us samples shots from his new project! His photographs have never failed to amuse and amaze me and I very much look forward to seeing what he’s been up to after wrapping up The Fish Book. (Felicia and I couldn’t help bursting out in laughter when Edmund shared with us the subject for this new project. It’s unheard of and Edmund even came up with a hilarious title for the project. I’d love to share, but I have to keep mum for now to protect Ernest’s interest!) Later this week, I’ll be meeting a famous local comic artist to discuss on publishing his comics, and also a local celebrity chef to have a follow-up meeting on publishing his cookbook. Plus many more meetings with poets, artists, photographers and chefs in the following weeks.

Besides these prospective projects, here’re the statuses of the ongoing projects I’ve been working on for the week…


1.Uncle Lau’s Teochew Recipes by Lau Chiap Khai and Lau Lee Leng.

This book was supposed to go to print like…two weeks ago? But that didn’t happen because we had to make some last minute changes to the illustrations. Last week, Lee Leng requested that we use illustrations done by her late husband (renowned local architect Mr Jack Tan). It’s quite problematic as our publication deadline will need to be pushed back for at least a month and our ongoing promotion and publicity plans halted. However, after seeing the illustrations, I believe the delay will be well worth it. Mr Jack Tan’s food illustrations––stunningly intricate and lovely––are perfect accompaniment to the delicate and refreshing Teochew recipes in the book! But don’t take my word for it, grab a copy of the book when we launch it late April and see for yourself!

2. A series of poetry collection by Professor Edwin Thumboo, Professor Kirpal Singh and Mr Robert Yeo.

This landmark poetry series will showcase the best works by Singapore’s Pioneer Poets. To ensure that the poems included in the collection are indeed the ‘best of’ their works, the poets have been working hard, and I have been working closely with them to re-re-re-revise their selection. Mr Robert Yeo dropped by in the afternoon to pass me his revised poetry selection, which was all hand-written. I spend about an hour typing it out, but, I quote my managing editor, “For you, Robert, anything!”  (see A Day In the Life Of: Ruth) But, seriously, Mr Yeo is a very nice person to work with and I’m really grateful that he has been dutifully keeping to the timeline of the project. And today, I finally manage to confirm a date for the book launch event! Given the busy schedules of the poets, finding a suitable date for the launch is no easy task—it took about 20 emails back and forth and frantic flipping of the calendar to confirm a date that is three months in advance! Yes, the series will be launched in July!

3. Graphic novel series (or comics series, but calling it graphic novels does make it sound more ‘atas’ and serious, because we are a serious publisher!)––Epigram Books’ new imprint!!

I’m real excited and looking forward to this project. Who knows? This could just be Singapore’s first successful graphic novel series that breaks into the international market! We have big plans to sell rights of the series to the US where the comics industry is burgeoning. Details of the graphic novels or identities of the comic artists that we are working with will be announced via our blog and Facebook. So hurry and ‘Like’ our Facebook page right now! And stay tuned!

 


A Day in the Life of Jocelyn March 06 2012

It’s time again for another dispatch from the world of Epigram Books! This week, we learn what goes on in Jocelyn's day.

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Someone recently asked me how I’ve liked working here as editor since joining the company in December 2011. I think my haiku “Lo Hei”, which I composed after our company lunch during the Chinese New Year and posted on my Facebook wall the same evening, should speak volumes.

Feastful of dishes:
Never more tasty than in
present company.


For one, I now have a namecard that says, simply, “Jocelyn Lau, Editor”, printed on a nice hard card. Editor, not Assistant Editor, not Associate Editor, not (oh gosh) Production Editor. Just Editor. (It matters!)

For another, everything I’d imagined life as an editor would be, since the year 2000 when I graduated from the University of Denver Publishing Institute course, has finally taken form. I’d almost given up (boss, you know this), disillusioned, until this job presented itself.

At present, I’m juggling five book projects: Model Citizens by Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage (April––it’s a very, very good play! Read it! Or go watch it!); a book of rhyming verses for children (April––this will have sweet hand-drawn illustrations); a cookbook for clueless Singaporeans (May––I will be buying my own copy), Singapore Classics 2’s series of books (October––interesting job, this one); and a to-be-edited manuscript for Singapore expatriates (August?). [All the editing and proofreading at Epigram Books are done in-house.] There’s also a new photographic book project we’re brainstorming, due Christmas. And a couple of other projects in the pipeline we’re keeping an eye on.


Today, I had my face in a complicated author’s contract, which has been negotiated at length. Taking breaks while doing so, I wrote to a literary agent in New Zealand to explain why we want to edit the Singlish used in a book we’re hoping to republish; texted another writer to request personal particulars for an ISBN application; communicated with two photographers about a potential project; and wondered about a potential author’s silence over a draft contract. In between, our studio manager managed to distract my intense gaze from my Mac screen long enough to receive my project updates for the next day’s publishing meeting. And just before dashing off, late, to pick up my kid from his daytime minders, I sent off by email my suggestions for the title of that book of poems, knowing full well that ideas will come in fast and furious from various colleagues – throughout the night.

It’s been a good day at work.


A Day in the Life of Ruth February 16 2012

What is it really like to work at Epigram Books? How is a manuscript or an idea scribbled on an NTUC receipt turned into a finished book that you hold in your hands?

Now, with our new series A Day In the Life, you can find out! First off is our managing editor Ruth, who recaps a typical day. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into the wild, weary and wonderful reality of literary publishing.

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7.45am 

I fumble for keys as I walk towards the locked doors of the office. First to arrive. Again. Have just dropped my son off at his primary school––school starts way too early, and I’ve nothing to do after bidding him goodbye, so that’s why I’m always the first one in. After staring at my computer for a while, I begin work.

First task of the day: sieve through the 100 emails I have received. Indian company advertising its book cover design services. Hotel in Frankfurt advertising cheap hotel rates. “Book now for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October (or risk disappointment!)”. I also get other emails: a potential author griping the advanced royalties we offered him is way too low (“how to feed family?”), a colleague who sends a funny quote she read on how to write well, and another cold call from a wannabe writer with a tome of a manuscript for me to assess. I make hot tea while contemplating the trajectory of my day. Oooom.

 

8.30am

Ding, dong! We receive a surprise visit from Robert Yeo! How I love that man––such an easy person to work with, always a gentleman, so dapper. We republished his book The Adventures of Holden Heng last year. Robert is stopping in to drop off his introduction to a play we’re hoping to publish in April––Mimi Fan by Lim Chor Pee. I look at the introduction––it is handwritten! How cool is that! I spend the next hour typing it out. For you, Robert, anything!

9.30am

After sending off the introduction to my intrepid designer, Boon, for layout, I buckle down to look at the emails that really matter. Imaginary Friends Studios has just sent in the draft illustrations for the new Archibald book, out in May. Eeks! Why does Archibald look like a Japanese manga character? It’s ok, it’s ok––still early days, and I’m very confident they’ll get it right because Darren Tan of IFS is DA BOMB.

Have a quick discussion with Stefany regarding the draft cover. We also spend time choosing eight portions of the book to illustrate––these will be spot illustrations, more like sketches. Should we illustrate the twist at the end of the book? Hmm. Would it give the story away if someone accidentally flips to that picture at the end? Double hmm. Should we illustrate the evil villain? Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Or leave it to the readers’ imagination? Got budget? What is best for reader? Decisions, decisions, decisions. And oh yes, Stef and I both agree this Archibald book is even better than the first one. Go SherMay!

11am

Hunger check. Do I want to snag a biscuit from the pantry…or work?

Tough question...

Think I’ll continue working while I figure out the answer.

11.15am

Receive an email from Lim Chor Pee’s family. They are the ones signing contract with us as Lim Chor Pee has passed away. The daughter, Claudine, explains she is from a family of lawyers. I understand the reason for her explanation as I read her email––she is requesting to include, among other things, the following clause in our contract:

The illegality, invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of this Agreement shall not affect the legality, validity or enforceability of any other provision of this Agreement.

Wha wha what?

I call Claudine and she is extremely friendly and approachable. In essence, the terms and terminology and phrasing and phraseability of the aforementioned contractual agreeity are rectified, clarified and demystified in, but not in exclusivity of, and not limited to but in consideration of the following ways: colloquial banter, jokes, plainspeak and much humour and discreet laughing. In short, we sorted it out!

11.45am

Contract settled (I think! I hope!). It’s time to…call some celebrities! Yes, celebrities! Wait, let me check my breath. My nail polish. My hair. JUST kidding. First on the list: Woffles Wu. Yes, we are doing a book project with Woffles and he is lovely to talk to over the phone. Next I call Mr Brown. I hope to convince him to do a book project with us. I call, and call, and call. Then email. He replies to email, “Ah, that was you? Sorry, having flu.” I tell him I will call him later. It’s off to lunch then. Lunch is porridge, colleagues, talk of board games, Munchkin, Ticket to Ride, Hwa Chong students, doing wushu as CCA and studying in America.

1.30pm


Start chatting with Felicia, our marketing manager about marketing ideas for our Gurkha Book and our Teochew Recipes Book. Unlike our fiction titles, these non-fiction titles rarely receive sponsorship or grants. =( How do we ensure they make money for us? How do we ensure people buy our beautifully-designed cookbooks and photo books? We think of a few ideas which Feli will follow up on. Suddenly, I get a call from SherMay––she was supposed to drop by to discuss marketing for Archibald. “Sorry, Ruth, I have flu. On the way to doctor’s. Postpone to next week?” Is there a flu epidemic today? Hee. No matter, I start to type out my discussion points with her over email, since our meeting has been postponed. Don’t want to lose a week because of flu!

2pm

Off to a meeting with Edmund which will take the whole day. But before that, I note down my key tasks for tomorrow: a) Proofread Mimi Fan in layout b) Call Mr Brown c) Send new short story to Dr Howard Goldblatt who is helping us translate some Cultural Medallion Chinese novels, including You Jin’s, for publication in October this year c) Chase Tan Tarn How for the revised manuscript of Fear of Writing (yes we’re hoping to publish that in Apr!) and d) Send email IFS to discuss our comments for the book cover (make Archibald less manga!) and spot illustrations.

I switch off my computer, grab my bag and speed off behind Edmund while he harrumphs and harranghs about our celebrity book project, his latest culinary find ODP and how we should rename a poetry book we’re putting out soon. That’s all, in the day of a life of an Editor, for you!


A Valentine's Day Menu from ‘Robin's Eurasian Recipes’ February 13 2012

It’s almost V-Day! If you believe music is the food of love, play on. If you believe food is the food of love, we have just the thing––four delicious handpicked recipes from Robin’s Eurasian Recipes, a collection of treasured family dishes that is now available in bookstores.

Click on the image below to download the following recipes for free:

Starter: Devil Wings

Entrees: Vegetarian Bee Hoon and Pot Roast Beef

Dessert: Coconut Agar-Agar


Announcing the ‘D-I-Y Diary’ Cover Contest February 01 2012

Have you got a copy of Amos Lee’s D.I.Y. Toilet Diary to Fame? Yes? Good. Are you ready for The Diary of Amos Lee TV series? Yes too? Great! You are officially ready to take part in our contest!

Here’s what you need to do: Simply colour, doodle and decorate the front cover of the D.I.Y. Diary, and let us know what you love about the TV series.

Ten lucky contestants will stand a chance to join us at a tea party and writing workshop on 10th March with Adeline Foo and Stephanie Wong at AllanBakes Bakery! And yes, you will get to try some of the Famous Amos (Lee) Cookies too!

Rules:
Email a (1) scanned colour image of your cover and (2) a message describing what you love about the TV series to amoslee.blogger@gmail.com. Remember to include your name, age and telephone number!

Contest period:
25th January 2012 – 25th February 2012

Results:
Results will be announced 1st March 2012. Winners will be notified by email, so keep a look out!


Amos Lee at Compass Point January 19 2012

 

On Saturday, 28th January, meet the cast of the new Amos Lee TV series and hear author Adeline Foo talk about the new Amos Lee D.I.Y. Diary! Behind-the-scenes stories will be shared about the filming. Books will be signed. Plus special guest Allan Teoh, the master baker behind the Famous Amos (Lee) cookies will share tips on how to prepare the recipes in the book.

Join the fun at Popular Compass Point next Saturday. The start time of this event will be announced soon on Epigram Books’ Facebook page. See you then!


Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012 December 29 2011

Happy New Year to one and all! In this special Q&A, Epigram Books staff look back on the year nearly over and gaze into the months ahead.

1. What was one of your favourite projects this year?

Sok Wan: I enjoyed working on all of the projects! I worked on a variety of projects this year: a play collection, a food guidebook, a cookbook, a photography book and also a children’s book. But if I had to pick my favourite, it would be The Fish Book. The fish photographs by Ernest are all so whimsical and quirky! I think it is amazing that he managed to capture various moods (happy, sad, grouchy, cheeky, etc.) of the fish. I never knew fishes were so expressive!

Min: The time I spent working on Epigram Books’ website and Facebook community was pretty rewarding. Besides the fun of conceptualising and writing blog entries and Facebook posts, it was interesting to learn how WordPress and Facebook page administration worked behind the scenes.

Ruth: I really enjoyed working on Archibald and the Blue Blood Conspiracy by SherMay Loh. I love SherMay’s writing, and it was fun working with Imaginary Friends Studios to illustrate the book and see the characters come to life through their amazing drawings. Conceptualising the book cover with our designer, Stefany, was also a cool experience––we had a lot of discussion about “imagining” the scene that is now the front cover of the book.

2. What was a high point of your year?

Sok Wan: Selling NOTBOOKS at the MAAD Pajamas market. It was quite tiring to stand at our stall (by the road and no shelter!) for 8 hours straight, but seeing the NOTBOOKS sell like hot cakes was really exhilarating! It was also fun to see groups of people crowding around our NOTBOOK banner laughing as they pointed at different NOTBOOKS to assign the different titles to their friends. I am looking forward to seeing more NOTBOOK-related merchandise come out next year!

Min: I was thrilled to sit in on an exploratory meeting that included several local comic artists. I’ve been reading some of their comics for years and it was fascinating to see these creators in person and hear the personal thoughts and concerns outside of their works.

Ruth: One of the high points was selling Chong Tze Chien’s collection of plays, Four Plays, at the staging of Charged in July 2011. Why was this a high point? For one, the book sold like crazy! We could hear the click-clack of our little cash box opening and closing all night long. Secondly, it was the first time the whole Epigram Books team hauled itself down to execute a book launch. We were like travelling salesmen for the night, carrying posters, books, spare cash, receipts, and we even had to do catering that night! Talk about one multi-talented editorial team, plus it was a bonding experience!

3. Name a person or thing that inspired you. Why did they inspire you?

Sok Wan: Madam Padma Krishnan is a very lovely person who is fiercely passionate about cooking. I am glad we published her cookbook which fulfilled her wish to document her family’s recipes so that future generations can get to taste authentic South Indian cuisine. I can still remember the scrumptious feast she prepared for us when we went to her house for food tasting––the food she cooked was truly inspirational and till today, the colleagues who came along for the food tasting are still asking when we can have a meal at her place again!

Min: The Epigram Books and Epigram team! It’s a pleasure to come in every day knowing at some point someone will make you laugh, teach you something new, or complete whatever request you might make with professionalism and grace.

Ruth: For a while, being the only Editor with a car, I played “delivery man” and helped deliver our NOTBOOKS to several lifestyle shops in Singapore. I am very encouraged by shops like Cat Socrates and Woods in the Books. These are small, quirky, independent locally-owned lifestyle shops, started by people with great passion and vision. I’m glad there’s still the spirit of enterprise and passion out there in our local shops–that really makes me happy!

4. What are you looking forward to next year?

Sok Wan: I am looking forward to working on upcoming photography books under our Wee Editions imprint. Titles that are scheduled to be released in 2012 include The Effigies Book, The Teochew Muay Book, and The Durian Book, to name a few. We hope to expand our photography titles in 2012 and I’d like to take this opportunity to invite all interested local photographers to contact us if you have any works you’d like to publish, or if you have ideas for a photography book!

Min: It looks like we’re adding to our marketing resources in the new year, so I look forward to thinking up publicity and marketing strategies to get Epigram Books’ titles in the hands of people who would enjoy them…even if they may not know it yet.

Ruth: I am looking forward to editing the five Cultural Medallion works we are publishing in English next year. These will be works by Chinese authors You Jin, Xi Ni Er and Dr Wong Meng Voon, Tamil author M. Balakrishnan and Malay author Suratman Markasan. We have been hard at work putting the series together, meeting these luminary Cultural Medallion authors and identifying good translators who will do justice to their works. For me, having read some of You Jin’s works in Chinese before, I especially look forward to editing her works in English! Happy New Year everyone!


‘The End of Char Kway Teow’ Wins World Cookbooks Award December 28 2011

It all began when one of our then-pregnant editors couldn’t stop drooling at her computer. What was she looking at? Dr. Leslie Tay’s amazing food blog of course! And that was the genesis of us working with the friendly Dr. Tay to put together The End of Char Kway Teow and other Hawker Mysteries.

And now, Dr. Tay’s book is racking up the awards and there’s no stopping it! Just a few weeks after this guide to hawker food in Singapore bagged the third prize in the Popular Readers’ Choice Awards 2011, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Gourmand International (of the Paris Cookbook Fair fame) has awarded The End of Char Kway Teow and other Hawker Mysteries the award for “Best Food Literature” in Singapore. The book has also been selected by Gourmand International to represent Singapore in the international Gourmand World Cookbook Award competition! Congratulations once again to Dr. Tay!

We’re honoured to be your publisher.


Epigram Books Christmas Gift Guide December 08 2011

Do you need fresh gift ideas? Would you like your dollars to support local industry? Like to read, but don’t have an iPad?

Well, you’ve come to the right blog. Take a look at these hand-picked recommendations for you and everyone on your list.

1. ARTSY FOLK


 Six Plays

by Tan Tarn How

Tan won critical acclaim this year with his censorship-themed play Fear of Writing. Theatre buffs and culture watchers will appreciate Six Plays, a collection of his earlier works, which also push boundaries in topics such as sex, life and politics.

The Fish Book

by Ernest Goh

The Fish Book is an collection of art photography focusing on the miniature world of ornamental fish. Warning: these charming close-up portraits may trigger a run to your local aquarium shop.
 

2. YOUNG AT HEART



Archibald and the Blue Blood Conspiracy

by SherMay Loh

A thrilling tale about a bumbling son of a duke who gets embroiled in a sinister conspiracy. SherMay Loh keeps pages turning with endless wit and a fast-moving plot. This novel for young adults picked up a Bronze Moonbeam Children’s Book Award and a nomination for Popular Readers’ Choice in 2011.

 


The Diary of Amos Lee 3: I’m Twelve, I’m Tough, I Tweet

by Adeline Foo

The latest volume in this bestselling series brings more laughs and tween angst as Amos takes part in his school’s talent contest. Catch up on the Amos Lee saga before the TV series airs on okto next year! This book won third place in the Children category of the Popular Readers’ Choice Awards 2011.

 

3. ARMCHAIR ADVENTURERS


 
The Scholar and the Dragon

by Stella Kon

Stella Kon may be most famous for a certain play starring Ivan Heng as a Nonya matriarch, but did you know she brought her dramatic talents to prose too? This historical novel brings you to Singapore of the 1910s, where overseas Chinese fought the revolution to bring down the Qing dynasty. This book is part of the Singapore Classics series, which reprints formerly out of print novels by pioneering local writers.
 

Xixabangma

by Robert Goh

The real-life adventure story of how a Singaporean team climbed a Himalayan mountain without fixed ropes or the aid of sherpas. Written by Robert Goh, the leader of the expedition, this account sheds light on the many uncertainties of unguided expeditions to Himalayan big mountains and how they were overcome. “If you’re sure you can do it,” Goh often says, “where’s the challenge?”

 

4. FOOD LOVERS

The End of Char Kway Teow and Other Hawker Mysteries

by Dr Leslie Tay

Featuring mouthwatering photos of dishes from rojak to wanton mee, and stuffed with entertaining facts and fictions about hawker food in Singapore, this is a foodie guide like no other. Use this insider’s guide to clue in your friends and family about the best hawker stalls in Singapore.
 

Madam Krishnan’s South Indian Recipes

by Ambrose Krishnan

Indian food fans will be enthralled by this collection of over 120 treasured family recipes from Pondicherry and Kerala. Recipes include those for Chutneys & Thovials, Rice, Seafood, Poultry, Meat, Vegetables, Snacks & Desserts, and Home Remedies.
 

5. EVERYONE ELSE



If none of your prospective giftees fit into the previous categories, we’re sure you’ll find an suitable design in our new series of NOTBOOKS. Take the NOTBOOK that reads “I AM NOT BOSSY. I AM TAKING CHARGE”, for instance. How many people does that remind you of?
 
Where to shop: all the books can be found in major bookstores, and NOTBOOKS can be ordered directly from Epigram Books and purchased at selected retailers.


Epigram Books: The People's Choice November 29 2011

The inaugural Popular Readers’ Choice Awards recognise Singapore’s favourite books as measured by sales and readers’ votes. We’re very pleased to note that of the 20 English books nominated, no fewer than 4 were published by Epigram Books! Not a bad showing for a young publisher! The nominees were: The End of Char Kway Teow, Archibald And the Blue Blood Conspiracy, Whoopie Lee and The Diary of Amos Lee 3.

We’re also excited to announce that The End of Char Kway Teow and The Diary of Amos Lee 3 each took third place in the Adult and Children categories, respectively. Congratulations to authors Dr Leslie Tay and Adeline Foo!


Give the Gift of ‘Char Kway Teow’ November 14 2011

This Christmas, clue in your friends and family to the best hawker food in Singapore—give them their own copy of The End of Char Kway Teow signed by the author Dr Leslie Tay! Order by December 8 and enjoy 10% off and free shipping.

Only 100 signed copies were available at the start of this offer, and now, three days later, we’re down to 80. Clearly, Singaporeans have good taste in books as well as food. Place your order now to avoid disappointment!

UPDATE (29/11): The End of Char Kway Teow just took third place in the inaugural Popular Readers’ Choice Awards! And we now have less than 40 signed copies of this award-winning book.


Just Published: ‘Madam Krishnan's South Indian Recipes’ September 28 2011

When we were invited to taste-test Padma Krishhan’s cooking—which she had learnt from her mother Madam Krishnan—we were blown away. Even our colleague from India was this close to bowing down and kissing Padma’s feet. That’s when we knew we had to publish Madam Krishnan’s South Indian Recipes, the recipes of a grandma-cum-chef extraordinaire who has been gracious enough to share her trade secrets, so that we can all learn to make mouthwatering South Indian dishes in the comfort of our own homes.

Madam Krishnan’s South Indian Recipes is available at all major bookstores for S$22.

Check out these other exciting titles in our Heritage Cookbook series: