Local getai singer Desmond Ng is only 28, but when it comes to culinary tastes, he is an old soul and happy to admit it.
"Ever since I was a kid, I've loved soup. Some of my favourite dishes are noodle soup and fish soup," said Ng, who shocked many viewers by winning Channel 8's reality singing show GeTai Challenge earlier this month.
"I eat at hawker centres very often and usually, I'd go for the stall selling bao tang (Chinese for stewed soups)."
GeTai Challenge, an inaugural TV contest that pits getai performers against each other, saw dark horse Ng pip veteran entertainer Marcus Chin and hot favourite Hao Hao to take the title.
The popular show aired weekly from May 25 and ended its run on Aug 16.
M met the suave bachelor over Hokkien mee and pig organ soup at one of his childhood haunts, Ang Mo Kio Central Market & Food Centre, and we witnessed firsthand his burgeoning fame in the heartlands as he was recognised by several hawker stall owners.
"Now, when I visit public places like markets, I do get more people giving me a second look," said Ng, who worked in fast-food cafes and convenience stores and did deliveryman jobs before starting his singing career six years ago.
He is also enjoying his best Hungry Ghost month ever.
Not only does Ng perform an average of three getai gigs per night - up from just one gig nightly this time last year - his takings have gone up by "20 to 30 per cent" after GeTai Challenge.
Ang Mo Kio Central Market & Food Centre must hold a special place in your heart.
Yes. I spent my childhood years staying in Ang Mo Kio. I was looked after primarily by my grandmother and she would bring me here very often. This place was like my playground and whenever we came here for meals, it was a treat of sorts.
The Hokkien mee here is delicious as it has the "wet" gooey texture I like.
Most getai gigs are held in the evenings and at night. Do you go for suppers after that?
All the time. To me, supper is my dinner. There are so many 24-hour eateries and kopitiams around and I'm rather easy-going when it comes to food, so having supper is really convenient.
Besides doing getai gigs, I also sing regularly at Prince Club in Bugis and Scarlet City in Ang Mo Kio. I'm already used to the topsy-turvy lifestyle. There are nights when I have to sing till 4am. A typical day for me would be waking up around noon.
Do you eat at restaurants?
Very rarely. If I'm alone, I don't eat at restaurants as it's no fun. It's nicer to be in a big group when you want to dine at restaurants. Recently, I went with my singing colleagues to Hai Di Lao Hot Pot. It opens till late, so timing wise, it is perfect for us who work at night.
Many people have commented that Singapore's hawker culture is a dying trade. What do you think?
I grew up on hawker food, so I hope it's not the case. Just like how I've tried to get more youngsters interested in getai, hopefully, a younger generation of hawkers will take over and keep it going.
Have you done overseas singing gigs? Any interesting food-related encounters?
It's not food-related, but I've performed on a truck in Taiwan. The concept is quite similar to getai in Singapore, but I remember the stage was set on top of a huge stationary truck. I love the night markets in Taiwan, I buy lots of food from the different stalls there.
This article was first published on August 26, 2015.
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