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Pint-sized, quickie gourmet delights
by Gwendolyn Ng

ITS menu boasts gourmet- sounding dishes such as butternut risotto, creamy chives and salmon, and lamb casserole, but not all the eatery's customers can read or order them.

Petit Bowl is a cafe that serves frozen meals for babies and toddlers, and it has been a hit among working professionals who have no time to cook for their children.

The shop at United Square is the brainchild of former private- bank trainer Josephine Kwong, who started the business last December for her three children.

"After spending almost 12 hours a day at work, I simply had no time to cook," said Mrs Kwong, 33, who has two sons, Joshua, eight, and Issac, six, and a daughter, Talia, who is two years old.

Once, Mrs Kwong was so busy that she fed Talia, then eight months old, mashed potato from KFC for dinner.

"As a mother, I understand a parent's busy schedule... I thought, why not go into the business of providing wholesome meals for babies and toddlers," she said.

On the chalk-written menu at the shop, there are about 35 items, with prices ranging from $4.90 for an apple and prune porridge to $6.90 for a creamy chicken penne.

Sold in capsule portions ranging from 30g to 170g, the dishes can be microwaved or steamed just before serving.

Business at Petit Bowl has been brisk - parents bought 2,372 dine-in and takeaway meals in May, up from 1,030 in January.

Mrs Kwong's husband, Bernard, 32, quit his sales job to join her in running the shop. Some customers, such as Madam Shereen Tay, love the products so much that they buy them in bulk.

Madam Tay and her 13-month-old son, Rainiern, are now based in Chiang Mai in Thailand, after her husband was posted there for work.

When she returns home on holidays, she buys a month's supply of Petit Bowl's frozen meals to take to Chiang Mai.

"My son likes to stick to me now, so it's hard to prepare food. I like the food here; it's convenient and nutritious," said the 32-year-old housewife.

The store's dishes contain only organic fruit, vegetables and grains, and there are no additives.

The recipes are a result of extensive research - Mrs Kwong pored over recipe books and consulted expatriate friends with children for ideas and recipes.

She even got friends from Europe and the United States to send her baby-food products, which she tried to recreate in her kitchen.

And her guinea pigs? Her husband and three children, whom she said are her best critics.

"They're honest. If they don't like the food, they will refuse to eat it. If they love it, they will keep asking for more," said Mrs Kwong.

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Petit Bowl is open daily from 11am to 8.30pm at United Square, 101, Thomson Road, #01-77/78.

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