Chua Jim Neo

Chua Jim Neo (Chinese: 蔡認娘; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Chhòa Jīn-niû; 1905 – 8 August 1980) was a Singaporean chef and cookbook writer best known for Mrs. Lee's Cookbook, which preserves the recipes of Peranakan cuisine. Chua was also the mother of Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore.

Chua Jim Neo
Chua Jim Neo

Died8 August 1980(1980-08-08) (aged 74–75)
  • Chef
  • cookbook writer
SpouseLee Chin Koon
Children5 (including Lee Kuan Yew)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese蔡認娘
Simplified Chinese蔡认娘
Hanyu PinyinCài Rènniáng
Hokkien POJChhòa Jīn-niû


Chua was born in Singapore in 1905 to Chua Kim Teng, a wealthy local businessman, and Leong Ah Soon, a Chinese Indonesian of Hakka descent. While her father was born in Singapore, her paternal grandfather came from a Hokkien Peranakan family in Malacca with ancestry from Haicheng, Zhangzhou, Fujian.[1][2] Her parents arranged a marriage for her to a storekeeper, named Lee Chin Koon, and they married when she was fifteen.[3] Chua had five children and her oldest son was Lee Kuan Yew, who went on to become the first Prime Minister of Singapore.[3][4] Chua saved her family jewelry and money, managing household finances and helping Kuan Yew attend law school in Britain.[3]

In 1974, she wrote Mrs. Lee's Cookbook: Nonya Recipes and Other Favorite Recipes[5] in order to preserve the heritage of Peranakan cuisine[3][6] (also known as nyonya or nyonya/baba cuisine), which combines Straits Chinese cooking with Malay-style cooking. Chua, a nyonya (Peranakan Chinese woman), was considered a "highly respected authority" on the subject.[7][8] The original publication included a preface by her cousin Wee Kim Wee, who was then serving as the high commissioner to Malaysia and would later become President of Singapore.[9] The cookbook was updated and republished in 2003 by her granddaughter, Lee Shermay.[10]

Chua died on 8 August 1980, and was cremated at the Mount Vernon Columbarium.[11] She was inducted posthumously in to the Singapore Women's Hall of Fame in 2015.[3]


  1. ^ "LKY's Maternal Ancestors Found! : Bukit Brown: World Monuments Watch 2014".
  2. ^ "LEE KUAN YEW, SINGAPOREAN - The Peranakan Association Singapore" (PDF).
  3. ^ a b c d e "Chua Jim Neo". Singapore Women's Hall of Fame. Singapore Council of Women's Organisations. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  4. ^ Chan, Robin; Tan, Sumiko (24 March 2015). "Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Devoted husband and caring father". Straits Times. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  5. ^ Corfield, Justin (2011). Historical Dictionary of Singapore. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 142. ISBN 9780810871847. mrs lee's cookbook.
  6. ^ Tarulevicz, Nicole (2013). Eating Her Curries and Kway: A Cultural History of Food in Singapore. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 106–107. ISBN 9780252038099.
  7. ^ Backman, Michael (2004). The Asian Insider: Unconventional Wisdom for Asian Business. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 73. ISBN 1403916578.
  8. ^ Andelman, David A. (20 April 1977). "Living Abroad: Singapore—the Clack of Chopsticks". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Veritas: Lee Kuan Yew and late president Wee Kim Wee are related". 19 July 2011.
  10. ^ Goh, Kenneth (17 January 2016). "Preserving Singapore Flavours". Straits Times. Retrieved 22 November 2016.
  11. ^ 李光耀总理萱堂蔡认娘女史逝世 [Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's beloved mother Madame Chua Jim Neo passes away]. Nanyang Siang Pau. 9 August 1980. p. 3. Retrieved 1 October 2017.