Celebrity Chow with Thai-American pop queen Tata Young

Tata Young is extremely confident of her culinary abilities.

As she sat down for lunch with M at Nara Thai restaurant at Westgate shopping mall last Saturday, the 33-year-old Thai-American pop queen said matter-of-factly: "I cook very well... I can probably cook all the items on the menu here."

Young was in town last weekend to headline the inaugural TEOUT Thai Music Showcase at The Coliseum, Hard Rock Hotel.

She ordered a spread of Thai delicacies, including stir-fried soft shell crab with curry, hot and spicy soup with prawns, deep fried shrimp cakes and red curry fish souffles, saying she was famished.

"This morning, it was raining and it felt so nice to snuggle in bed, so I skipped the most important meal of the day - breakfast," said the vivacious singer, best known for her 2004 provocative dance-pop hit Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy.

Young has also made headlines for dating professional Thai tennis player Paradorn Srichaphan and Prem Busarakamwong, heir to one of Thailand's Muay Thai promotion and equipment company.

Pointing to the red curry fish souffles, she explained: "Hor mok (its Thai name) is a good example of how delicate Thai food is. It's a very time-consuming dish to make.

"There is Thai basil at the bottom, the paste for the steamed cakes is essentially fish mixed with coconut milk - some eateries like to use crab meat - and then you wrap it with banana leaves.

"It's definitely not as easy as it looks. When preparing it, you have to ensure that there are no fish bones."

Young, born to an American father and a Thai mother, credits her family for her culinary passion.

"Since I was a kid, my parents loved to cook. My nanny loved cooking too, so there was always food around the house and we hardly ate out."

What are some of your family's signature dishes?

They like to use the freshest ingredients and we do everything from scratch.

For example, you can buy instant packs of Thai green curry and red curry off the shelves in supermarkets, but my family does it old-school, traditional style.

We pound all our spices and ingredients to make the curry paste.

These days, people choose blending, but it's different. By pounding, you get to retain the oils and essence.

What dishes do you do best? Have you ever considered venturing into F&B?

I have a chef's certificate. A while back, my brother and I opened a restaurant in Thailand serving both Thai and Western food.

We kept our standards very high.

However, it was hard to maintain the business. We struggled and eventually closed it.

Besides Thai food, I do mostly Italian fare. I like making fresh pastas. I also grill a lot because I have a grill at home. Very American (laughs).

One thing I don't do is bake. I hate baking and doing anything that involves measuring.

Any food that you dislike?

I'm not a big fan of lamb. Chefs who are able to do lamb or venison well must be top-notch in their craft, as it takes great skill to remove the gamey smell of the meat.

Any memorable overseas food-related encounters or romantic dinners to share?

I remember a wine-tasting session in the Maldives with a friend.

The wine cellar was underground and though there were others in our group, somehow, only the two of us stayed.

We had a really fun time drinking whatever was taken out from the cellar.

We drank a lot.

It helped that the atmosphere was amazing and the food served was wonderful.

As for dinner dates, let me tell you, I'm the least romantic person.

When I go on dates, I don't care how I look. I order squid ink pasta which leaves black ink on your teeth!

That's the kind of person I am. I prefer to be real. Anyway, I'm happily single now. Very happy.

This article was first published on June 4, 2014.
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