Five minutes into my lunch with veteran local actress Zoe Tay, I found myself being schooled in the art of Japanese cuisine by the Caldecott queen.
The warm ambience of Mikuni, a gorgeous upscale Japanese eatery at Fairmont Singapore, proved to be perfect for my crash course, which came about when Tay noticed my zero knowledge of Japanese food.
While I struggled embarrassingly with the alien terms on the menu, the 44-year-old mum of three boys was quite the connoisseur.
Tay, who said Akashi at Tanglin Shopping Centre is one of her favourite restaurants, added with a smile: "Japanese cuisine is definitely at the top of my list."
Over vegetable tempura, barbecued eel, abalone and shrimp, I asked the MediaCorp Ah Jie if her role as a chef in Eric Khoo's dementia-themed Channel 8 telemovie Recipe, shown last month, had made her an expert in the kitchen as well.
Are you a great cook? You've showed off your culinary skills twice on popular Channel 8 variety cooking series 3-Plus-1 and both times, you won!
To be honest, I don't cook often. We live with my 76-year-old mum and she does most of the cooking for the family. She is an amazing cook and can whip up many dishes like asam fish, curry, braised bitter gourd and kung pao chicken.
I can do just a couple of dishes - stir-fried pork with ginger and olive vegetables with porridge - pretty well.
But when put to the test, I think I'd still be able to deliver. My good friends (actresses) Pan Lingling and Chen Liping, who appeared with me on 3-Plus-1, are worse cooks. Lingling's kitchen is like a showroom. (Laughs)
How about your husband (air force pilot Philip Chionh)? Did he win your heart with his impressive cooking skills?
Yes, I was bowled over by his baking skills! He could bake cookies, cakes and pizza.
What are some foods you avoid like the plague?
I don't eat pork, as I had a really bad experience at a dim sum cafe more than 10 years ago. Most of the dim sum items were made from pork and I remember throwing up after the meal. I fell sick for the next three weeks.
Also, I don't like half-boiled eggs. During my childhood years, my dad ran a chicken farm and picking up eggs was a regular activity of mine. I hated egg yolk as it was icky and sticky.
Any favourite local hawker food and haunts?
Like most Singaporeans, I love Hokkien mee, carrot cake and Hainanese chicken rice.
The Hokkien mee at one of the stalls at Pasir Panjang Road Food Centre, near Port of Singapore Authority wharf Gate 5, is delicious and I always da bao (take away) packets of it after filming. I also like the Hokkien mee at Food Republic, VivoCity.
When overseas, are you adventurous with food?
I would say I adapt easily. My most memorable overseas culinary experience was a family skiing trip in Italy. I got the Italian tour guide to take me to his house, where I whipped up a meal for my husband and sons, using Italian ingredients. It was one of the rare occasions where my sons praised my cooking skills.
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