Celebrity Chow with local actress Mindee Ong

Celebrity Chow with local actress Mindee Ong

For the past year, Mindee Ong has spent 40 per cent of her time filming across the Causeway.

Yet, the bubbly 34-year-old local actress didn't bat an eyelid when asked if she preferred Singaporean or Malaysian cuisine.

"Of course I like Singapore food the best. In fact, I miss it a lot when I'm working in Kuala Lumpur or Penang," said Ong over brunch with M yesterday at Department of Caffeine, an industrial-styled hipster cafe located along Duxton Road.

"The style of Malaysian food is rather similar to Singapore's, but the flavours are different. Malaysian fare is oilier and saltier, which I still can't get used to."

While tucking into pasta salad and waffles with banana and ice cream, she said: "Whenever I have meals outside, my golden rule is 'less salt, less oil'."

Ong, best known for her role as cancer-stricken getai performer Little Papaya in the 2007 movie musical 881, signed on with Malaysian film production company SKT Media & Entertainment Group in late 2012.

"It's hard to find good people who are determined to make good movies. I felt a magical bond with the team there, so after starring in The Transcend (a Malaysian horror flick produced by SKT Media) I decided to join them," she explained.

"Since then, we've made another three films together."

The Transcend, which opens here tomorrow, sees Ong in her first supernatural big-screen outing.

She plays apprentice "transcender" Le Le, who conducts Taoist rituals and prays for souls to pass into the afterlife.

Sipping her mango yoghurt drink, she mused: "Horror is a really challenging genre. I had to show so many different layers of emotion. You can't sport the same fearful face throughout."

You are not a coffee drinker. Why don't you love a good brew?

I've developed a phobia of coffee, because when I was a kid, my grandma liked giving me black coffee with very little sugar.

I was in kindergarten, just five or six years old, and whenever I asked her for Milo, she'd give me black coffee instead. It was so bitter! No coffee for me since.

Occasionally, I'll have a few sips of latte, but these days, I prefer a cup of teh-si (tea with evaporated milk).

What are some foods you'd never tire of eating?

When I'm at home, I tend to eat clean. It's mostly brown rice, steamed fish and steamed egg. I love codfish, sea bass and prawns. From time to time, I do have cravings for curry, chilli crab and Teochew porridge with salted egg.

Any favourite hawker haunts and restaurants in Singapore?

I like Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre and dimsum at Imperial Treasure Nan Bei Restaurant at Ngee Ann City.

Another place I'd highly recommend is BAM! Tapas-Sake Bar, opened by (local actress) Constance Song. The suckling pig is fantastic.

What are your signature dishes?

I learnt to cook in my adulthood, when I got sick and tired of eating out.

Growing up, I often helped my nanny in the kitchen, plucking bean sprouts and washing dishes. I dreaded doing all that then, but in retrospect, it helped build up my common sense and basic knowledge of cooking.

I can do soups pretty well, be it shark's fin melon soup, watercress soup or pear soup. I also like doing salads, such as baby spinach topped with yuzu oil, pomegranate and cherries.

Although I can cook, I can't bake. I'd like to learn baking someday though, so that I can make bread from scratch.

Any memorable overseas food encounters?

Years ago, I shot a food infotainment programme in the Northeastern part of China and we tried exotic dishes like bear paw, camel paw and birds' soup.

Personally, I felt those dishes tasted awful.


This article was first published on June 18, 2014.
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