Celebrity chow with actor Chen Tianwen

Marriage is about the art of compromise, something Chen Tianwen knows all too well.

The 51-year-old local actor told M on Monday that when it comes to eating with his China-born wife Ms Bao Xiaohui, he constantly straddles between "the oily and the healthy".

Describing his wife, who is 21 years younger than him, Chen said in Mandarin: "She is from Inner Mongolia and she loves rich, spicy north-eastern Chinese cuisine like mala hotpot."

He is candid about the difference in their food preferences.

"She likes this particular dish called salted egg with bitter gourd, which - in my opinion - is a weird combination. I prefer bitter gourd on its own."

"She takes beef, I don't. I grew up without beef in my household. Generally, I like my food (to be less rich)."

While chatting with M at Ah Hoi's Kitchen in Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore, Chen savoured chilli crab with deep-fried mantou (Chinese buns), grilled pork ribs and black pepper kway teow.

Chen's career has been enjoying a second wind after starring in last year's Golden Horse and Camera d'Or-winning film Ilo Ilo.

Following the success of Ilo Ilo, Chen tries to maintain a sense of level-headedness at work.

"There are people who will tease me, saying 'wah, you are a Golden Horse-nominated actor, I'm sure you can ace this scene'," he said.

"Such comments may come across as praise, but to me, it's actually a kind of invisible pressure."

Audiences can catch him on the big screen in new local movie Wayang Boy, which is now showing in theatres.

He plays a frustrated white-collar executive who gets consistently passed over for promotion, as foreigners are hired by the company.

With a laugh, he acknowledged that while he is at a stage in life where he has to monitor his calorie intake, his young wife is not.

"I guess our age gap does play a part in our different tastes," he mused.

You got married in May last year. Any plans for babies?

Hmm, I can't reveal anything right now. News will be coming soon. Akan datang (coming soon)!

If I'm a dad, I definitely want to have the energy to run after my child, so I want to be fitter. Recently, I cut alcohol from my diet and managed to lose weight.

I was 83kg before, now I'm 79kg. My goal is to reach 75kg.

In a bid to cut down on carbs, I'm eating less rice. These days, I can go without rice for a whole week.

What is your all-time favourite food?

I love all kinds of seafood - crabs, mussels and clams. My favourite is fish, especially salmon.

Who is the better cook at home - you or your wife?

Definitely my wife. Aside from instant noodles, I can only cook one dish: Steamed fish.

My wife can do north-eastern Chinese dishes pretty well. She has learnt a number of local dishes too, such as curry chicken and bak kut teh (pork rib soup).

Where do you and your wife go for a nice meal?

Before Lavender Food Square shut its doors, we used to go there quite often. There were many stalls we loved.

To be honest, I don't really enjoy Western cuisine, so fine dining is not for me. Once, I took my wife to a restaurant-bar at Marina Bay Sands SkyPark. The view was amazing, but the food was forgettable.

Have you been to Inner Mongolia? How is the food there?

Yes, I've accompanied her back to her hometown. The cuisine there is... oily. (Laughs) It was extremely cold when we visited, with temperatures as low as -27 deg C.

We had Sichuan fish stew, a lot of meat, mantou and hua juan (steamed twisted rolls). I prefer hua juan to mantou, as mantou is a tad too heavy and starchy.


This article was first published on Nov 19, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.