Celebrity Chow with Leon Jay Williams

Not many people know that Eurasian actor-singer Leon Jay Williams has Peranakan blood from his mother.

It is fitting then, that M had tea with him at celebrity chef Violet Oon's newest Nonya restaurant - National Kitchen By Violet Oon at the National Gallery Singapore.

Seated amid the beautiful colonial decor, floral Peranakan tiles and framed vintage photographs, Williams sampled the Singapore High Tea set, which consisted of a mix of savoury and sweet Nonya treats. He also tried Oon's signature dry laksa, and chilli crab mantou (Chinese buns).

Dry Laksa. Photo: TNP

"Peranakan food is known for its strong flavours. My mum used to cook it, but not so much recently because it's a lot of work," Williams, 40, said.

He picked the hae bee hiam sandwich from the high tea set and dry laska as his favourites, and washed them down with a cup of kopi C with less sugar.

"I've never had dry laksa before - it's very unique. The flavour is great and it's not too spicy.

"I like how the hae bee hiam sandwich comes in little portions. So while you get the taste of the hae bee, it's not too overwhelming. It also tastes fresh with the cucumber wrapped around it."

Williams is starring in Michelle Chong's comedy Lulu The Movie as Leon. He is the handsome love interest of Lulu - Chong's Chinese KTV hostess character. The film opens on Nov 24.

"I'm known for my roles as the posh guy in a suit, so I'm doing that again in Lulu The Movie. It's my first local film, and it was fun working with Michelle as we've been friends for a long time," he said.

Singapore High Tea Set. Photo: TNP

What are your top local food haunts?

I travel to Taiwan and China often and they don't really have hawker places, so I like to visit those when I'm home.

I'll go to Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre.

The Guangzhou Mian Shi Wanton Noodle stall at Tanglin Halt Food Centre is one of my favourites.

When we were filming Lulu The Movie, we shot on location at Geylang Claypot Rice. That was great - we had such a good lunch that day.

You've spent a lot of your career in Taiwan. What are your favourite things to eat there?

I go to the night markets for street food such as Taiwanese fried chicken and lu wei (a mix of braised ingredients).

I'm also happy with the little cafes there such as NY Bagels Cafe. There's very good pizza at Alleycat's Pizza too.

Chilli Crab Mantou. Photo: TNP

Do you cook?

I can cook the basic stuff - enough to survive. I tend to make dishes that are easy to prepare, such as salads, and breakfast dishes such as omelettes and sausages.

My wife, who is Taiwanese, cooks a lot of healthy food for us, especially since we have a daughter who's about 18 months old. We'll have rice with Chinese dishes, and pasta, all cooked with less salt and sugar.

What don't you eat?

I don't eat a lot of sweets and desserts, or food that's too spicy.

In China, the spicy food tends to be the mala (made with Sichuan peppercorn) kind. I can't eat that at all as it's too much for me.

This article was first published on Nov 18, 2016.
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