The Chef

Jee Leong Koh Photo credit Mihyun Kang

By Jee Leong Koh

for Richard Chan (Yummy Tummy, Flushing, New York, March 24, 2019)

Unctuously fried oyster omelet.

Hainanese chicken rice. Sambal fish balls

pierced on a stick, as in the old night markets,

airborne kerosene lamps lisping with a flair.

Mee goreng with sliced fish cake, Chinese sausage

and egg. Bak kut teh spelled the correct way,

the way of memory, for bone meat tea.

And finally, the chef’s very own favorite,

the pièce de résistance, on which he lavished

a fiery, slurry, egg tomato sauce,

the chilli crab, made from Dungeness crabs,

in which we dig with fingers for sweet flesh.

The critics got him wrong. He has not changed

profession. He is still a travel agent.


Jee Leong Koh is the author of Steep Tea (Carcanet), named a Best Book of the Year by UK’s Financial Times and a Finalist by Lambda Literary in the US. His latest book is Connor & Seal: A Harlem Story in 47 Poems (Sibling Rivalry). Originally from Singapore, Koh lives in New York City, where he heads the literary non-profit Singapore Unbound.

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