Jeffrey Xu admits he is spoilt because of China's one-child policy.
"As the only kid, I was naturally very spoilt. My parents dote on me so much that I don't have to do anything at home," said the 25-year-old MediaCorp actor over lunch with M at Tong Xin Ju Special Shanghai Tim Sum at Maxwell Food Centre.
"I grew independent only after I started living on my own in Singapore."
And because of all that pampering, Xu - based here since he won Channel 8's talent competition Star Search in 2010 and visits his hometown Shanghai only once a year - can't cook.
"I can do fried eggs with tomatoes, but that's about it. That's the only dish my mum taught me," he said as he bit into a piece of guo tie (pan-fried dumpling).
"I'm not interested in cooking, but I'd gladly learn if it's for work.
"Recently, I learnt on a talk show how to whip up fish and chips from a professional chef. It was surprisingly easy!"
The rising star, who bagged Best Supporting Actor at last year's Asian TV Awards and was unveiled as one of the "8 Dukes of Caldecott Hill" at last month's Star Awards Show 1, also playfully ratted on his fellow celebrity friends' cooking abilities.
"Zhang Zhenhuan, who's my housemate in Singapore, can't cook for nuts either," he said with a grin.
"Which of my pals can cook? Yuan Shuai's cooking skills are not too bad."
Before tucking into the spread - nian gao (sweet sticky cake), shui jiao (boiled dumplings) and hot and sour soup - he showed off his knowledge on Chinese cuisine.
"Shui jiao is more of a dongbei (north-eastern) dish, hot and sour soup originating from Sichuan, whereas nian gao is an extremely popular dish in Shanghai," explained Xu.
What are some of your favourite local dishes?
"I eat everything, I'm not fussy. I love bak kut teh, prawn noodles, char kway teow, laksa, Hainanese chicken rice, bak chor mee, even durian.
The first time I tried durian, I was a little put off by its smell, but gradually, I've become a huge fan.
"My mum loves it, too, and whenever she's in Singapore, we'd buy durian and eat it in my room. If we can't finish in one sitting, we'll keep the leftovers in my fridge and I'll continue eating over the next few days."
Which is your favourite eatery?
(Fellow Shanghai actor-host) Guo Liang Da Ge (Mandarin for big brother) took me once to Melben Seafood at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3. I love the butter crab there - it's sweet and amazing.
I have tried crab at other places, but I prefer Melben for its casual neighbourhood setting.
What Shanghainese dishes and restaurants would you recommend to Singaporeans?
Definitely Shanghai's "Four Heavenly Kings" - da bing (Chinese pancake), you tiao (fried dough sticks), steamed sticky rice balls and soy milk. They are our classic breakfast food and the favourite of every Shanghainese.
Most Shanghainese have a sweet tooth and you can tell by some of our dishes like honeyed lotus root with pork ribs, which is super sweet.
There is a restaurant on Shanghai's Tian Ping Road called Jesse Restaurant, which is famous for its food quality. The restaurant is so small it cannot even fit 20 people, but the food is fantastic! It has attracted celebrities like (Hong Kong actress) Cecilia Cheung and queues are perpetually long.
Shanghai has grand, expensive restaurants, but I prefer smaller, more homely eateries that serve simple Shanghai fare like kao fu (braised wheat gluten) and little yellow fish.
This article was published on May 14 in The New Paper.
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