Rising local musician Reuby used to be blase about Korean cuisine.
But after a recent work trip to Seoul, the 19-year-old is now unabashedly "obsessed" with it.
Last month, the gangly youngster - whose real name is Reuben Tan, but prefers to go by his catchy stage moniker Reuby - was in the land of K-pop and Gangnam Style to promote his self-titled debut English album.
"It was my first time there. Of course I've heard a lot about it from my sisters, who love Korean culture more than I do," Reuby told M.
"I loved everything I ate in Seoul, from the bean paste soups, kimchi soups, stews, to hot stone bibimbap (Korean mixed rice).
"The barbecued meats were great too. I tried what was known as the 'Wagyu beef of Korea' and it was amazing."
We were at Ajumma's at The Cathay, a Korean casual eatery that evoked pleasant memories of his promotional tour.
Reuby, who is currently studying for a diploma in music at Lasalle College of the Arts, is going places.
The latest local musician to sign with major label Warner Music Singapore, he saw his folksy first single My Sunshine shoot to the top of the local iTunes chart last August.
He was named 987FM's Rising Star and Lush 99.5FM's Artist Of The Month.
More amazingly, his tender ballad, The Key To Her Heart, was featured in Korean drama Spy, starring Kim Jae Joong from boy band JYJ.
"It's been a surreal experience. I have to credit the team at Warner Music Korea. They were the ones who worked very hard to push for my song to be used in Spy," explained Reuby, who was interviewed by digital music service providers MelOn and Bugs, as well as radio station KBS Cool 89.1FM during his Seoul stint.
"I've received good reviews from netizens and I think I've gained a few Korean fans! It's exciting."
Signature Beef Kalbi Set. Army Stew Set. Bibimbap Hot Stone Set.
Do these dishes we have here remind you of your dining experience in Seoul?
Yes, definitely. I was in Seoul during winter so it was extremely cold. Having a hot bowl of stew or ramyeon (Korean instant noodles) was the best thing in the world.
A Korean friend told me that Army Stew is very popular among young people in Seoul, as it contains a lot of canned meat like sausages, ham, luncheon meat. Stuff we like. (Smiles)
Do you like K-pop? Any star-spotting encounters in Seoul?
Before I went to Korea, I knew of and liked some groups such as BigBang and 2NE1. Now, having been there, I think I'm beginning to like the pop culture more. I saw Ryeowook from Super Junior at the KBS radio station. He was hosting a programme.
Do you cook? What can you do best?
Yes, I can cook proper meals for my family. I have three sisters and I'm the best cook among them. (Laughs) My passion for cooking grew gradually over the years. I learnt by observation, trial and error, as well as applying my own logic.
My pizza and pasta carbonara are pretty good. As for simple Chinese dishes, I can whip up stir-fried vegetables with sesame oil.
Where do you go for a nice meal with your family?
My favourite would be Din Tai Fung, I like the fried rice there. It's a bit expensive though. We also go to Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe quite a bit.
Where do you and your peers hang out for food?
My schoolmates and I visit food courts, (sandwich chain) Subway or Eighteen Chefs restaurant.
Any memorable overseas food encounters?
I just came back from a promotional trip to Manila, where I tried the famous balut (boiled developing duck embryo in shell).
My team bought it along the streets and we had it in our hotel. When I opened the egg, I hesitated. But I still took a bite. It was scarier than I imagined. I mean, the duck looked really cute!
This article was first published on Feb 18, 2015.
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