Eunice Olsen's favourite meal may come as a surprise to many.
Not only is it a far cry from fancy fare, its setting is most rural.
"Whenever I'm in Udong, Cambodia, I'd follow the locals to one of the town's authentic outdoor restaurants.
"All of us would sit at a long bench with hammocks around us," recalled the 36-year-old local actress-host over lunch with M last week at Indochine Waterfront Restaurant at the Asian Civilisations Museum.
"It's simple. It's what the Cambodian eats. There would be rice, a whole fried chicken, fish which you eat with a sauce, and soup with vegetables and ants," Olsen explained.
Before I could let out a gasp at the mention of ants in soup, she quickly reassured me that it was a Cambodian delicacy.
The former Nominated Member of Parliament became enamoured with Cambodia after co-producing and starring in 3:50, a hard-hitting film about sex trafficking that will start screening at The Arts House from April 12, as part of the multidisciplinary arts centre's Frame x Frame series.
3:50 was shot entirely in Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia.
After filming wrapped, she returns to the country every four months to help build toilets and raise awareness of feminine hygiene.
"This plate of fresh spring rolls looks like something you can find easily in Cambodia," remarked Olsen, as she tucked into her dishes, which also included a pomelo salad.
The Catholic was observing the season of Lent with a 40-day vegetarian diet.
"You know the best thing about eating in Cambodia? Food is never wasted. Whatever you cannot finish, you just pack it up and give it to people, be it the tuk-tuk (auto-rickshaw) driver or the security guard."
Tell us more about the Cambodian dishes you love.
The locals eat a lot of bobor, which is Cambodian porridge. You can eat it at coffee shops and stalls along the streets.
Cambodian food has some Thai and Vietnamese influences too. There's this dish called banh chiao, which I like at the markets there. It's pork in egg wrap, almost like Singapore's popiah, but you wrap it yourself.
I also love num pang sach chrouk ang, which is grilled pork served on toasted butter bread. It's like eating satay on bread. Delicious! If you're looking for more high-end cuisine, there are two good restaurants in Phnom Penh I'd recommend - Maliz and Topaz. Maliz serves very good fish amok (curry).
Cambodian fare aside, what else do you never tire of eating?
My mother's cooking. She can cook the same food every day and I'd still eat it. Some of her top dishes are black sauce chicken with ginger, French beans with shrimp and garlic, and chicken curry.
Her best dish though is potato cutlets, served with either sardines or luncheon meat. It's an Eurasian dish and takes a lot of work. She takes four to five hours to do it, from chopping the onions to preparing the mashed potato.
Did you inherit your mum's cooking skills?
No! (Laughs) I can do very basic stuff, like spaghetti, scrambled eggs, poached salmon and steamed chicken.
My cousin is a pastry chef, so I like baking with him. I must stress that I'm no expert, I experiment under his supervision. We can make apple crumble and different flavours of cupcakes, like banana chocolate, pandan, cheesecake and tiramisu.
Are you a fan of hawker food?
Yes I am. I love Hainanese chicken rice, chwee kueh and Ya Kun kaya toast. Maxwell Food Centre is one of my favourites.
You can find very good dried mee sua there. I used to go there with my parents when I was younger.
There was an auntie who had a stall selling hum chim peng (salty deep-fried dough fritters) and my mum would never fail to buy from her.
Boon Tong Kee's steamed chicken rice is always reliable. And for roast chicken rice, I'd go to Chye Kee at Goldhill Plaza.
This article was published on April 9 in The New Paper.
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