“Eat­ing is her forte; cook­ing is mine”

How do you raise a lit­tle one who loves veg­gies and all things healthy? So­cial-me­dia in­flu­encer Bella Koh shares her se­crets with ELISA CHIA.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - SHOPPING -

Most kids squirm in hor­ror when you show them green juices, let alone drink them. But 1½-year-old Alessan­dra Ye­ung hap­pily sips half a bot­tle of cold-pressed veg­etable juice, while snack­ing on goji berries.

The lit­tle one also laps up meals that fea­ture bit­ter­gourd, bam­boo shoots, kale and lady’s ngers, among other healthy in­gre­di­ents.

“Eat­ing is her forte, while cook­ing is mine,” de­clares work-from-home mum Bella Koh, 35, who doc­u­ments her par­ent­ing mo­ments, cook­ing, yoga, fash­ion and travel ex­pe­ri­ences on Instagram. Her ac­count, @cat­slav­ery, has amassed 69,600 fol­low­ers and count­ing.

“Have I turned my child into a health junkie?” she muses in one post. Here, she tells Young Par­ents how she in­stils good eat­ing habits in Alessan­dra. (Turn to page 42 for her recipes, as well.)

Where did you pick up your cook­ing skills?

It was mostly through watch­ing my mum cook. I re­mem­ber mak­ing my rst dish when I was nine years old. I made a mess of her kitchen, but that was the be­gin­ning of my food jour­ney.

My late pa­ter­nal grandma also had a strong inuence on me. She made ex­cel­lent Teochew and Per­anakan dishes. I’d usu­ally ob­serve her while she cooked up a storm in the kitchen ev­ery Sun­day for our fam­ily of 20!

My ma­ter­nal grandma, on the other hand, owned a med­i­cal hall. When I was young, we were made to try bit­ter tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine (TCM), and “odd” Hakka dishes that no kids would love.

In­ter­est­ingly, I took to lov­ing bit­ter medicines and foods. The rest of it was self-taught and through cu­rios­ity, based on my trav­els.

You’re such a mul­ti­tasker. How do you jug­gle work and a tod­dler, and still find the time and en­ergy to cook?

I never knew I was one un­til I be­came a mum! I think the sit­u­a­tion forces you to jug­gle many roles all at once. I still sleep at 4am these days and wake up at 9am. I’m not even sure if I’m alive on some days ( laughs).

I work from home and look af­ter Alessan­dra by my­self. On Thurs­days, I send her over to my mum. That very pre­cious one day of be­ing child-free re­ally makes me more efcient with my daily tasks. It clears my mind and I have time to plan for the en­tire week.

I used to make food in batches and freeze them when she was younger. How­ever, I have some­what learnt the French way of par­ent­ing – chil­dren eat­ing what the adults eat. So I try to cook dishes that cater to ev­ery­one in the fam­ily.

For break­fast, I keep it easy: two ba­nanas, an av­o­cado, two hard-boiled or scram­bled eggs and op­tional whole­meal bread. I eat these with her.

Lunch is usu­ally sh por­ridge or miso soup with tofu and brown rice, which I set to cook the night be­fore.

I’ve made many dif­fer­ent dishes for din­ner, but de­cided to stick to brown rice and a one-pot dish. Usu­ally a nabe dashi stock with bit­ter­gourd, sim­mered daikon, moun­tain yam, tofu, car­rots, pump­kin, cab­bages, sal­mon or bar­ra­mundi, and plenty of leeks, gar­lic and gin­ger.

Con­form­ing to a xed menu with in­gre­di­ents on ro­ta­tion is what does best for us.

Of course, you’ve re­ally got to love cook­ing. That’s what keeps me go­ing.

Has your cook­ing style changed since Alessan­dra came along?

I cook al­most ev­ery day. I don’t think it has changed much, ex­cept we eat more of­ten at home for din­ner. I’ve al­ways en­joyed mak­ing Ja­panese food and it suits kids in gen­eral.

I like sim­ple, healthy and yummy dishes. No fry­ing, if pos­si­ble – that means less wash­ing up. In fact, I even plan my cook­ing around how to min­imise prep­ping in­gre­di­ents and clean­ing up later. That helps me de­cide on my cook­ing style.

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