Midway through lunch with Siti Khalijah Zainal, she starts lamenting the closure of food court chain Banquet.
Once considered Singapore's largest halal food court operator, it shut down its outlets last year due to financial difficulties, leaving the bubbly local 28-year-old theatre actress with fewer options for halal Chinese food.
"I like halal Chinese food a lot. Banquet was the place for my people (referring to fellow Muslims) to eat char kway teow, chicken rice and hotpot. So when it closed, it hit me," she said.
Last Wednesday at noon, Siti, who stars in The Necessary Stage's latest road rage-themed production Poor Thing, managed to satisfy her craving for Penang laksa, satay and fries at laksa eatery-cum-social enterprise Laksania at Bugis+.
The play's two-week run ends on March 9 at The Necessary Stage Black Box, at Marine Parade Community Building.
Said Siti, who will also be part of the cast of Channel 5 satirical TV show The Noose's new season in April: "I never liked Penang laksa till I visited Penang a few years back and tried it there. It's delicious and different from the coconut milk-based laksa we have here."
M finds out what type of cuisine turns this budding TV star on and off...
What food do you never get tired of eating?
I love Japanese food, especially sushi. I can eat it any time. It's fast and unfussy, too, perfect for a quick bite in-between rehearsals. My favourite would be salmon sashimi sushi.
Also, I have a sweet tooth. I adore desserts, cakes and cookies.
My belief is that no matter how full you are, there is always room for dessert in your stomach.
Any go-to haunts for yummy eats?
Well, after Banquet shut its doors, I like to go to Simpang Bedok.
There are plenty of halal eating places there with good food like Tang Tea House, which serves halal dim sum. It's great for families and opens till late at night, so we go there for suppers.
Enak Enak Hong Kong Tea House, another halal dim sum joint opposite Bedok Market, is nice, too.
For Western fare, I like Badoque Cafe. It has amazing beef ribs.
What food do you dislike?
For some reason, I don't like red beans and green beans. I'm not a fan of their mushy, pasty taste.
You have talked about your "secret" to zing up instant noodles. Apparently, it has something to do with adding cheese?
Oh, basically, just put mozzarella cheese into Maggi mee soup while it's still hot. It sounds gross, but trust me, it's not. It's very delicious. (Laughs)
You get pizza texture on noodles, which you can't find anywhere else.
Any memorable overseas food encounters?
Malaysia is where most Malay Singaporeans like myself can indulge in stuff we can't eat here. For example, I cannot dine at (US restaurant chain) Tony Roma's in Singapore, but in Malaysia, I can, as it's halal certified.
When I visited Hong Kong with two other Malay friends, eating was definitely a problem, not to mention the language obstacles.
Before we arrived, we had done our research and marked out different halal eateries, but in reality, they were hard to find and pretty out of the way. In the end, we ate seafood, stuff like clams, most of the time.
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