Very busy, but still finds time to cook
WHEN her husband suffered a heart attack last January, Ms Susheeta Manoharan decided she would change the way they eat.
The 44-year-old Singaporean, who is of Sri Lankan descent, now cooks healthier food for herself and her husband, engineer Manoharan Suppiah, 43.
She says: "I make it a point to have only one meal with rice a day, and if we feel like having more rice, I cook red rice. My husband and I are trying to cut down on our carbohydrate intake.
"I have an air-fryer at home, which deep-fries food with minimal oil. I also use low-sodium salt when cooking," she adds.
Her love for food started when she was three.
"My father would buy me a pack of chicken rice every day. My mum said that, whenever she wanted to share the food with me, I would tell her to take the chicken and leave the rice for me. I love the rice because it's so flavourful."
Her mother, Nesarany Sundram, 82, a retired teacher, was very open to the idea of her hanging around in the kitchen.
She started cooking at 13, which included things she learnt during home economics class in school.
"I still remember my first dish. I took some fresh pork from the fridge, cut it and fried it with some eggs. It tasted horrible because the whole thing tasted only of pork, but I forced it down my throat because I didn't want to waste food."
At 22, she did voluntary work at Sree Ramar Temple in Changi Village, where she was part of a team that had to cook a meal of vegetables, curry and payasam, a sweet dessert, for 300 to 400 people for a festive meal.
She also met her husband there. They have no children.
"I was still not very adept at cooking and I had to call my friends to ask them how to cook," she says.
"At the end of the whole thing, I told myself if I could cook for 300 or 400 people, I could cook at home."
Despite being a businesswoman with three businesses - Indian fashion, building supplies and education for foreign students - she is active in volunteer work.
She is the social secretary of the Singapore Ceylon Tamils' Association and assistant treasurer of the Changi Simei Community Club.
When asked how she is able to cook every day, despite having a busy schedule, she says: "Food and cooking are my first loves. When I eat at home, however simple it may be, I know what's going inside my food."
The black-sauce chicken recipe she prepares for The Sunday Times' SundayLife! in her five-room HDB flat in Simei is not the usual braised black-sauce chicken. It contains a spicy kick from the chilli paste that she uses.
She is so passionate about her Sri Lankan heritage and cooking that she is working on a project by the association to launch a Sri Lankan food and heritage book, slated for publication at the end of the year or the start of next year.
"The book would talk about the dying traditional festivals and the food that comes with them. It will include the reasons the festivals are celebrated and what should be prepared for (each) festival," she says, adding that it would be helpful for the younger generation who are losing touch with their culture and heritage.
THE SUNDAY TIMES