By Tan Kee Yun
The New Paper
May 13, 2015
In the four years she was chasing her K-pop dream in Seoul, singer Ferlyn Wong did not have a single good meal.
The 23-year-old Singaporean used to be part of Korean female quintet SKarf. She left last September to pursue a Mandopop career.
She told M last Thursday over lunch at Teochew eatery, Tan Chin Lee Sea-Fresh Restaurant, at Tuas Amenity Centre: "We never got to eat well. I never felt like I had a proper meal. Most of the time, our management made us go on a strict diet.
"Before we ate, there would be a mini weighing machine on the table to track our salt intake. Each of us was allowed 2g of salt per meal. Nothing more."
She recalled: "Our regular meals included items such as yogurt, banana, a lot of broccoli and cabbage. Tofu was another staple. When we were rushing for time, we didn't even cook the tofu, we ate it raw, straight from the package."
Looking like a spunky firecracker with her purple tresses and an upper back tattoo, she added: "Funnily enough, even though I was on a diet in Korea, I was much heavier then.
"I felt bloated every morning. I don't know why, maybe it was water retention.
"After I returned to Singapore, I started eating whatever I wanted and I have since lost 9kg.
Wong, who is 164cm tall, now weighs a svelte 51kg.
She released her debut solo, EP FIRST, in January.
"It performed better than expected, which was encouraging," she said. "I am currently working on my second release, a 100 per cent self-composed project. Hopefully, it will be out by the end of the year."
While FIRST contained both Mandarin and Korean tracks, Wong wants to shake off her K-pop association by the time her sophomore effort is released.
"I am slowly dropping the Korean part of me, I don't want that (K-pop label) to keep pestering me," she said with a laugh.
Fragrant yam ring. Braised pig's trotters. Seafood mango roll. Are these some dishes you missed terribly when you were away?
Yes, definitely. The yam ring is an old-school Teochew dish that I have eaten since I was a kid. My brother is a huge fan of braised pig's trotters.
I really missed zi char dishes. In Korea, there is no zi char. I had my first seafood meal right here at Tan Chin Lee Sea-Fresh Restaurant after returning from Seoul.
It is the way the dishes are cooked that I missed. Local flavours such as lemongrass and sambal belacan - I couldn't find them in Korea. Korea has its own chilli paste and fermented bean paste.
In Seoul, you and the other SKarf girls didn't even have one chance at a good meal in a restaurant?
Well, we had, but we couldn't eat at ease. We always ate with our managers and company directors staring at us throughout the entire meal.
So even though they'd say, "Go ahead, eat what you want. Today is the day you can break your diet", we couldn't relax and let loose.
I'm sure you have your favourite Korean dishes though.
I like Doenjang Jjigae, which is fermented bean paste soup. It is my epic meal. Korean seafood is awesome too, just not as awesome as Singapore seafood. I am not big on beef, so I am not into Korean BBQ.
Actually, I love Japanese food more than Korean food. (Laughs) I went there twice for work and each time, I never failed to gain weight. I like everything there - sashimi, ramen, sushi, sweet potato.
Do you and the SKarf members cook local meals in your dorm?
There is another Singaporean member in SKarf, Tasha (Natasha Low), so whenever both of us come back to Singapore, we'd stock up on laksa-flavoured instant noodles and Hainanese chicken rice paste. The downside is these foods are high in sodium and our managers didn't allow us to consume them often.
What is your idea of a romantic dinner date?
I didn't date for the whole four years I was in Korea. I didn't go on a single date. (Laughs)
We could date in secret, but there was no chance to. I didn't have a phone, so it was hard to keep in touch with anyone, or arrange anything. Now, I can put the word out there: I am single and available! Hopefully, I can find someone who, like me, puts career first.
A quiet, dim and preferably not-so-cold place will be nice for a dinner date.
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