I think in life, it is important to try to spend at least some of your waking moments doing something you have a passion for. I am fortunate to be doing what I love: writing. In amongst the crazed school runs and ‘everyday stuff’ that comes with the territory of a slightly larger family (three daughters and two dogs), I get to write – to share stories, and to feed my soul. And in my travels for a good story, I get to meet inspiring people doing things they have a passion for. One such person I recently met was Shalu Asnani of Little Green Kitchen.
A vegetarian since her teens, this ex-legal counsel discovered her passion when a work-imposed stint in Beijing led her to follow her husband’s advice to take ‘time out’ from the rat race. Photography courses led to cooking classes which eventually saw her teaching other people how to cook at The Hutong Kitchen in Beijing when she was invited to ‘sub’ for a sick instructor – and she has never looked back since! “I was so nervous walking into that very first class to teach,” she confessed. “But when I realized how naturally it came to me; talking about cooking, spices and just food in general, I really had my ‘eureka’ moment!” Fast forward to 2013, with a stint at the Cordon Vert Vegetarian Cooking School under her belt and now back in Singapore for two years, Shalu has been keeping busy. The Little Green Café is THE go-to ‘vegetarian option’ to sign up for cooking classes (hosted at Shalu’s home on East Coast Road), if you are hosting a party and need a private chef, or if you are a restaurateur looking to get help injecting a little zest into your menu. And no, it is not an actual café.
When I asked her about the challenges of taking on so varied projects, she reveals, “It can sometimes be a challenge, plus it’s a total change of mindset going from working for a large corporation to running your own business. It takes a fair bit of multi-tasking and discipline, because my day can very quickly change completely – it takes just one phone call from a client.” She credits her husband and monthly meetings with her mentor to help stay focused despite the hectic pace from running her thrice-weekly workshops, teaching private cooking classes (for housekeepers or friends who want to cook together) and restaurant consultation work. Did I also mention her upcoming e-book guide to vegetarian restaurants in Singapore plus the cook book in the pipeline?
So, what does this talented chef always have in her fridge?
- Tofu – because it is so versatile and can be used in Asian, Western and Indian cooking.
- Chillies – she is addicted to them – having grown up with a ‘chilli pepper in her mouth’. Shalu even adds them to salads!
- Lemons – Shalu adds lemons to EVERTHING just before serving as it elevates flavors. Additionally, lemons lower your glycemic index (i.e. blood sugar levels) and helps break down starches. What’s not to love?!
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