Many Singaporeans remember Teo Ser Lee from her beauty pageant days in the '80s, when she was crowned beauty queen in not one, but three contests. She won her first pageant via Miss Singapore International 32 years ago, before taking the top prize in Miss Singapore World in 1988, and Miss Singapore Globe in 1989.
Now 52, Ser Lee, who’s 1.72m and 60kg, still cuts a svelte figure and looks like she has barely aged. She owns an etiquette consultancy firm Protocol Academy and runs a food biz selling glutinous rice on the side.
She started Si Glutinous Rice (her name in Mandarin is Si Li) three months ago. The self-proclaimed foodie says: “I’ve been making this dish for my friends during gatherings for more than 20 years now, and all of them love it. They told me that they wanted to order it for Chinese New Year, and asked me to sell it, so I said okay! (Laughs)”
During the recent CNY period, Ser Lee received over 100 orders for her 8 Treasures Glutinous Rice, which contains Chinese preserved sausages, peanuts, dried scallops, mushrooms, shrimp and minced pork.
She works from her condo’s kitchen in Serangoon, where she chops up her ingredients, stir-fries and steams them, before packing them into boxes. The whole process takes almost three hours, excluding the time taken to soak the rice overnight.
Customers collect their orders at Lorong Chuan MRT station, where the former beauty queen delivers the food personally as it’s a stone’s throw from her home. Well, most of the time at least.
Ser Lee, who’s in a long-term relationship, shares: “Sometimes I get my partner to deliver it as I’m caught up with [consultancy] work. But I’d do it myself whenever I can. My customers would often say things like: ‘Huh you deliver the food as well? I didn’t expect that’. Sometimes, they'd take selfies with me, too!”
Check out the photo gallery above for our verdict on her star dish, plus our interview with her below.
8 DAYS: We didn't know you could cook so well! Why sell glutinous rice?
TEO SER LEE: I love cooking. I can also make wanton noodles, curries, steamed pomfret and more. I usually prepare these dishes for my family and friends. I started learning how to make glutinous rice from my mum’s hawker friend more than two decades ago, as my mum really loves eating it. I find the ones that my mum bought very oily and unhealthy for elderly people, so I decided to learn how to cook it. I modified the recipe to make it healthier, and I added a lot more ingredients to make it tastier.
How much did you invest in this business?
Not much, as I don’t have to rent a central kitchen [for now]. I cook from home using my usual steamer. I only spent money buying the ingredients and boxes.
You’ve kept in good shape over the decades. Doesn’t constantly cooking and eating sticky rice pile on the pounds?
(Laughs) Well, when I prepare the dish, I just taste a little bit of it [to check the seasoning]. I don’t eat the whole thing. I’m very disciplined when it comes to my diet and exercise regimen. I jog 8km every morning and I haven’t eaten desserts in the last 15 years. I’ve also cut out carbs since eight years ago. It’s torture, ’cos I’m a foodie and I have a sweet tooth! I used to eat an entire tub of ice cream, or four whole durians in one sitting in the past, but I can’t afford to do that anymore as my metabolism has slowed down. These days, I’d have fruit juice for breakfast, and vegetable soup for lunch and dinner. If I have to eat out, I’d opt for something grilled or pan-fried. I don’t take any deep-fried food at all.
Why so tough on yourself?
I decided to start watching what I eat when I was in my late 30s. I put on weight easily and my face bloats up very quickly. As I’m still doing part-time acting on Ch 8 dramas these days, I don’t want to look too fat on TV! Also, as we age, we can’t burn calories as quickly as before, so the best way to keep in shape is to eat less, as I find dieting a lot more efficient for weight loss compared to just exercising.
You’re a part-time actress, radio DJ with Capital 95.8FM, entrepreneur and now a cook. Any plans to go into F&B full-time?
I hope that someone would invest in my business, and eventually, I can find a way to sell ready-to-eat frozen glutinous rice in supermarkets, where customers can simply just reheat it at home. I don’t think we have that in supermarkets now.