Jean Kwok


Searching for Sylvie Lee | Mambo in Chinatown | Girl in Translation





Anyone who follows Jean on social media knows that especially when Jean is working on a novel (which is pretty much all the time), things can go a bit wrong in her kitchen. Cakes get dropped on the floor, food is charred beyond recognition, and crepes are mutilated. In fact, when Jean suggested to her two boys that she make them pancakes as a treat, they both cried in unison, “Noooooooooo….”

Things got so bad that Jennifer Kular of The Well Travelled Kitchen reached out to Jean in a mission of mercy.

“Is there anything I could do to help you?” Jennifer asked. “Reorganize your kitchen and pantry? Give you a basic course in knife skills?”

“Oh, I’m a hopeless case,” Jean answered. “But I always wish I could do more for book clubs reading my books.”

And thus a beautiful collaboration was born. Jean gave Jennifer free reign to develop delicious, healthy recipes inspired by the dishes mentioned in Searching for Sylvie Lee.

If your book club is reading one of Jean’s other novels, Girl in Translation or Mambo in Chinatown, no worries. Since those novels are set in New York and Chinatown, these recipes will also feed your book club brilliantly.

Jean and Jennifer discussed which types of dishes would work best for book club groups. New York, Amsterdam, and Venice have provided the backdrop. Hints of Indonesia come through because of this connection to The Netherlands. From savory to sweet, you’ll find something for everyone, inviting you to a taste of the American, Dutch, Indonesian, Italian, and Chinese world of Sylvie Lee. There’s even a tasty signature cocktail, The Sylvie.

After Jennifer had gone through every dish in Searching for Sylvie Lee, she developed a range of scrumptious recipes. Although Jean is not a great cook, she loves to eat. So she invited Jennifer over to her house, along with two dear friends, Katrina Middelburg, who is also always one of Jean’s first readers, and Paola López.

Under Jennifer’s expert and calm direction, Jean, her husband Erwin, Katrina and Paola cooked up a storm all day.

Every person has a fantasy of what they would do in a photo session and apparently, Erwin’s is to smear ketchup on his finger and pretend he’s mortally wounded. Sadly for their kids, Erwin is even worse in the kitchen than Jean is.

Jean was amazed by Paola’s knife skills and how all of the pieces were even and small.

There was a lesson in dumpling making and folding, given by Jennifer.

Jean’s specialty was dumpling eating. 

In fact, all of the food disappeared in a wink.

There was also a great deal of dancing.

Jean may have been more involved in the dancing and eating parts than cooking, which was a good thing.

—Katrina and Jean

We hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we enjoyed developing them!