ISBN 978-1-922629-20-3

Kampong Boy

Flavour is my hometown

Savour the flavour of Singapore in the comfort of your home!

Chef and restauranteur Sashi Cheliah goes back deep into his childhood, sharing recipes he enjoyed having as a kid in Singapore. This cookbook is packed with classic dishes that you will enjoy cooking with your loved ones.

“Food is about sharing and spending time together, you don’t have to spend a lot of money or time to enjoy deliciously cooked meals and bond at dinner time.”

Sashi Cheliah flowers Author Photo
Sashi Cheliah at a table Author Photo
Sashi Cheliah in action Author Photo

About the Author

When I was growing up as a kampong kid in Hillview Estate in Singapore, life was tough. I was the eldest of seven children, and my family lived in a small apartment. We could not afford many facilities or luxuries. My parents were not well educated and had to slog for long hours to provide the basic amenities for me and my siblings. They struggled to make ends meet, and had no choice but to leave me and three of my siblings to be cared for by our aunts; the other siblings were cared for by our grandmother.

My aunts were not married at that time, and only knew how to shower us with their love by cooking our favourite food. Even though I was only a toddler, I can remember that my aunties would work a night shift and then come back home to prepare lunch for us, even though they were tired. I was always clinging on to them and watching them cook. I think that’s when I started to love food, and since then I have always experimented with cooking. My aunties didn’t know how to teach us academically, but they shared their cooking knowledge with us.

Years passed and I became a young teenager. My mum had a café and I was spending a lot of time helping her out after school. Don’t get too excited – I was not allowed to be in the kitchen. I only served customers their orders, as my mum was worried that I would end up as a cook rather than getting a white collared job. She wanted us to excel in life and always reminded us that life is not a bed of roses.

Then I started to spend less time with family and lots more with the wrong company, and began to miss school. At that time, I was lucky to have great teachers at Swiss Cottage Secondary School. Hubert Yohannan was my history teacher, and he saw the drastic changes in me. He introduced me to the outdoor club and activities such as rock climbing and camping kept me busy in a good way, and eventually led me to join the Police Force.

When I was 18, I was also lucky enough to meet my other half, Rabicca Vijayan. We met at a barbeque and it was love at first sight. My camping skills played a vital role, but I absolutely swept her off her feet with my BBQ chicken wings – I have to thank my classmate Justin for his recipe!

I was never academically smart and did not continue my studies. I became lost in life and forgot all about my passion for cooking. Then it was time for me to complete my National Service, which was compulsory for all males in Singapore. I was adamant that I wanted to join the Army to be a commando, but my dreams were shattered when I was enlisted in the Police Force. Rabicca and my family were very supportive and encouraging about my joining the Police Force, and it turned out that I loved it. After working in the riot squad, I became part of the Special Tactics and Rescue Unit (STAR) team. That was one of the best moments in my life, as this was a very prestigious and highly regarded job in Singapore. Only a handful of police officers are able to get this job, and I was one of them.

Life sailed along smoothly for a decade till my sweetheart, who was my wife by then, wanted to migrate to Australia as she liked the lifestyle there. I was not in favour at all, but for my family’s sake I was willing to give up my job and start afresh.

We came to Australia in 2012 and I was unemployed for three months. I picked up cooking again as I was bored and had started missing my hometown food. And because eating out was expensive, I cooked almost every day and my passion was rekindled. Even after getting a job in the Department for Correctional Services, I made it a point to cook for my family because my kids enjoyed my cooking.

Our circle of friends widened and we had more gatherings. Many praised my cooking and my wife encouraged me to apply for Masterchef. It took me three years to believe in myself, and I finally did apply in 2017 – the rest is history.

Now I am taking a very exciting next step in my life, as I bring a new angle to my passion for food and cooking, with a focus on the food of my ancestral home.