By Tan Yee Kun
The New Paper,
April 08, 2015
Should you bump into Selena Li in Singapore, spare her the touristy stuff. The 34-year-old Hong Kong TVB actress reckons her adventurous streak makes her more familiar with Singapore’s food landscape than most locals.
“Every time I’m in Singapore for work, I’m always exploring new restaurants and eateries,” said Li, who grew up in Toronto. “I think I know Singapore better than a lot of Singaporeans. Seriously.”
With a laugh, she added: “Locals don’t go anywhere, right? For food, you always stick to the (restaurant) chains. “I’m like that in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, I’m a local and I hardly venture out to explore new places.”
The Miss Hong Kong 2003 finalist met M for lunch last week at Ser Seng Herbs Restaurant at Tai Thong Crescent, one of her favourite turtle soup haunts here.
She was in town to promote the second season of Channel 5 sitcom Spouse For House, which airs every Wednesday at 10pm, starting tonight. It follows the marital misadventures of couple Jessica (Li) and John (Alaric Tay).
Veteran comedians Irene Ang and Richard Low play John’s quirky parents.
Spouse For House’s first season showing at last year’s Asian Television Awards — it bagged Best Comedy Programme, Best Comedy Performance and Best Original Screenplay — was a confidence booster for her, said Li.
“At TVB, I do a lot of sad roles, mostly in serious dramas and period dramas. I cry a lot on the small screen. Spouse For House was one of the rare times I did comedy and suddenly, I got nominated,” she recalled.
Li was nominated for Best Comedy Performance, but lost to co-star Ang. “Though I didn’t win, I was ‘highly commended’ and that made me go, ‘Whoa, this is crazy.’
"It’s kind of like a light telling me that maybe I can do comedy. I should explore the lighter side of myself. It was definitely a huge encouragement.”
You’re having steamed turtle soup and taro rice. Turtle soup is known to boost energy and cleanse the blood. Do you like turtle soup for its health benefits?
Turtle soup is really rare, you don’t have many places that serve this kind of food. I’ve never had it in Hong Kong. It’s healthy, yummy and has a nice herbal taste. I love soup. I’m a soup person.
Also, this has lots of collagen, so you know, for a girl, it’s very important. (Smiles.) My soup comes with meat and skin. You have the option of ordering turtle soup with intestines, which I’ve tried, but it’s not to my liking.
Earlier this year, you spent five weeks filming Spouse For House 2 in Singapore. What are other local food and eateries you like?
I like Katong Laksa, where the noodles are cut up and you eat them with only a spoon. Recently, I tried dry laksa for the first time, but I still prefer Katong Laksa. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I’d go to local chocolate cake chain Awfully Chocolate.
There are outlets in Hong Kong, but they don’t have the chocolate milk drink that’s served in a ball. It’s so good. The Singapore outlets have a wider variety of cakes too.
For Hainanese chicken rice, I like Tian Tian at the famous Maxwell Food Centre and Boon Tong Kee. Alaric recommended a scissors-cut curry rice stall near Little India, which was great. It’s really, really ghetto, located at the corner of a street.
I also go to Geylang for frogs’ legs and durian. There are a million durian stalls in Geylang, and some are super pricey. You can get ripped off if you don’t know which ones to go to.
Wow, you are a foodie.
I’ve gained so much weight since I shot Spouse For House 2 in Singapore. (Laughs.) I was doing a performance in Macau and somebody took a picture of me. My arm was so big, I looked like I was pregnant!
I was shocked, because for a while, I didn’t know I had piled on the pounds. I was always wearing loose, comfortable clothes and the weight gain wasn’t reflected on my face.
Two days ago, I played beach volleyball at Tanjong Beach Club and when I got into my swimsuit, I felt like my fat was spilling out. I desperately need to go on a diet.
Do you eat with your cast members of Spouse For House?
We grew a lot closer in Season 2. I spent my birthday here and while I was on set, they got me a birthday cake. (Smiles.) And after that, we went for dinner together. Everyone is so thoughtful and nice.
Last season, before I left, they bought me durian, knowing how much I love it. We’d go to Irene’s bar for drinks. I was so upset when we wrapped up our shoot earlier than expected.
Production-wise, we actually under-ran! I remember telling our director, “Why can’t you film longer? I want to stay in Singapore longer.” It was so much fun.
Favourite restaurant in Singapore?
I’m very impressed with Basilico, an Italian restaurant at Regent Singapore. The appetisers and desserts are buffet-style, and the variety of appetisers is amazing. Ham, cold cuts, grilled vegetables, salads, you name it.
What made me even more impressed was the fact that they had 20 bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil that you could choose from. It’s serious Italian stuff. The restaurant is homely and traditional, and the service is fantastic.
What is a romantic dinner date?
Staying at home, cuddling, ordering pizza and watching DVDs. Of course, if the boyfriend cooks something I really like, that would be even better.
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