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Shortlisted candidates announced for the 2019 Yan-Kit So Award for food writers on Asia

14th August 2019


The Oxford Cultural Collective is proud to host the biennial Yan-Kit So Award, which enables aspiring food writers to fulfil their dreams to research, travel and create original work about any aspect of Asian food. The award honours the legacy of Yan-Kit So (1933-2001), one of the most acclaimed writers on Chinese food. A passionate promoter of Asian food, her first book, The Classic Chinese Cookbook, won an André Simon Award and a Glenfiddich Food and Drink Award. Her seminal work, Classical Food of China, made a major contribution to the understanding of Chinese regional food cultures.

The aim of the Award is to support travel and research costs associated with producing an original work intended for publication in print or electronic form, for the English speaking world. This could be a cookery book, or maybe a substantial article for a magazine or journal.


The winner of the 2019 Yan-Kit So Award for Food Writers on Asia will be announced at the end of September.

The shortlisted candidates for the 2019 Award are:


Yvonne Poon. A professionally trained chef and recipe developer, Yvonne plans to write the Asian Barbeque Cookbook, featuring original barbeque recipes from Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. Her proposal is inspired by memories of her extended family coming together for special occasions, at which they would enjoy a wide variety of dishes including lamb satay glazed with syrup, Chinese spareribs and soy chicken wings. Yvonne will combine historical and cultural analysis with practical tips for preparing street food snacks, main dishes, marinades and salads.

May Chong. Living in the UK, so far from where she was raised in Malaysia, food provides May Chong with an emotional connection to her cultural roots. To date, this has focused on her food blog and successful supper club. Her plan is to write The Heritage Hokkien Cookbook, which will explore the distinct and largely undocumented food of the Diaspora from Fujian Province, China, who settled across South East Asia, including in Malaysia. Part family memoir, she will track the evolution of a cuisine over four generations and one hundred years from Fujian to Kuala Lumpur.

Julie Kleeman. The Tibetan Table will be Julie Kleeman’s tribute to an ancient cuisine that has developed in relative isolation. She aims to document the unique culinary traditions of the Tibetan people, spanning home cooking, nomad food, festive occasions, picnics and the food of the Diaspora. Whilst travelling in India, Julie met chef Yeshi Jampa, who grew up in rural Tibet. They are now married and are proud owners of Taste Tibet, a mobile (nomadic) food stall in Oxford. Through her popular food blog, Julie shares food stories and answers questions posed by her enthusiastic readers.

Ishita DasGupta. Bengal, which became West Bengal and Bangladesh following Partition, has a rich and varied culinary history influenced by the many peoples who have settled and colonised it over the centuries.  In The Land of Sugar, Ishita DasGupta will explore this diverse culinary heritage, placing emphasis on home cooking which featured at religious festivals and feasts. She will also examine the history of commercial sweet making, which includes numerous regional specialities. As tastes and lifestyles have changed, the popularity of traditional recipes has declined. Ishita aims to document those at risk of being lost.



The members of the judging panel for the Yan-Kit So Memorial Award for Food Writers on Asia are:

David Thompson, cookery writer and Chef Patron of Nahm restaurant in Bangkok;

Fuchsia Dunlop, cook, food writer and broadcaster;

Carol Michaelson, curator of Chinese art at the British Museum and freelance curator and writer on Chinese art;

Paul Bloomfield, chef, corporate and private caterer, and Patron of The Oxford Cultural Collective;

Donald Sloan, Chair of The Oxford Cultural Collective.


The Award is jointly administered by Betty Yao MBE and Freya Aitken-Turff.   The Award was launched in 2008 stemming from an original idea by Betty Yao to commemorate the life and work of her friend Yan-Kit So through her twin passions for food and travel.

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