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In The Kitchen with Bret Thorn

Selena Tan discusses Peranakan culture and her family’s new restaurant, Daisy’s Dream NYC

The actress, director, and producer shares her pride in Singaporean cuisine


You might have seen Selena Tan in the hit 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians, in which she played Alix, one of the friends of the male romantic lead’s mother, but she recently visited New York City to promote the opening of Daisy’s Dream NYC, an offshoot of Daisy’s Dream Kitchen, which her mother Daisy opened 12 years ago at the age of 60 in a hawker stall in Singapore.

Daisy’s Dream features Peranakan cuisine, which is the food of the Straits Chinese — named for the Straits of Malacca that separates the Malay Peninsula from the Indonesian island of Sumatra — who moved to the region mostly in the 19th century. Most of those immigrants were male, and they married local Malays, creating a hybrid culture reflecting the traditions of southeastern China and the foodways of the land where they settled with its heady fermented pastes, fresh spices and herbs, and bountiful seafood.

Tan was raised on that food, as was her younger brother Roy, who is the chef at the New York City restaurant, which is at the new Urban Hawker Food Court in Midtown Manhattan. That space was conceived of by the late Anthony Bourdain and Singaporean food reporter and entertainer K. F. Seetoh, who recruited the restaurants that have now opened there.

Although Tan is best known in the United States for her role in Crazy Rich Asians, she has been acting, directing, and producing for decades, including performing in the cabaret trio Dim Sum Dollies. She is an ambassador for Pink Dot, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group in Singapore.

Tan recently discussed her mother’s restaurant and Singaporean food culture, as well as her upcoming role in Shotgun Wedding, a film starring Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel slated to be released in January 2023.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

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