FREELANCE food writer Sim Ee Waun didn't have the most promising of beginnings to a career in food.
She dropped out of home economics class in Secondary 3 after she accidentally set fire to the domestic science classroom while melting butter.
'There was a fire engine with sirens wailing, and a police car rushing onto the school field after that,' she recalls with a laugh.
But she stumbled back into food when, fresh out of the University of Hull in Britain, she was hired as a features writer for Wine & Dine magazine in 1990.
'The more I delved into food, the more interesting it became and I was hooked, particularly on food history,' says the soft-spoken Sim, 39.
She went on to become the editor of the magazine in the mid-1990s, and has since written food articles and reviews for a host of other publications, including Home & Decor, Simply Her and the Malaysia-based Flavours.
She is married to a dental surgeon and is the mother of an eight-year-old girl. She also develops new recipes for her articles.
Which restaurant received an excellent review from you recently?
Peach Blossoms at Marina Mandarin hotel. The Chinese food there is excellent - all done by chef Tan Yong Hua, who is truly very creative with Chinese food but keeps the integrity of the cuisine intact.
What's the most scathing critique you've ever given to a restaurant?
Oh dear, it was ages ago, to an American food joint which played up the 1950s rock 'n' roll era with its food and decor. The food was terrible and the service horrendous. I said it 'bombed' but can't tell you more without revealing the name. It's still around and is quite popular, so it must have improved. But I've never been back.
How harsh are you as a critic?
I try to be balanced because I don't think we should be so arrogant as to think we are in any position to jeopardise someone else's rice bowl. But if things are bad, I won't gloss over it and pretend it's great.
What food, when done badly, really irks you?
I don't take myself so seriously as to be really irked by food. What really gets my goat, though, are service staff who blatantly pander to one particular group of people and treat other customers indifferently, often simply by the way they dress or talk. Oh yes, a badly made caipirinha can also be a very tragic thing.
What is your guilty-pleasure food?
Teochew oh nee (yam paste dessert), Kit Kat and stodgy English puddings. The oh nee in Swa Garden in MacPherson Road is very good.
What is your biggest beef about the Singapore food scene?
That there are plenty of fantastic local talent around who aren't getting the recognition they deserve because, perhaps, they are less media-savvy or are too shy to toot their own horns. It's sad that few people recognise them. They are too busy following foreign trendsetters to notice the wonderful things in their own backyard.
Topmost on my mind are chefs Frankie Ding at Cilantro in Purvis Street, Willin Low at Wild Rocket in Mount Emily, Daniel Koh at Holiday Inn Atrium and Tan Yong Hua at Peach Blossoms.
What do you think is the most underrated ingredient?
Coriander, the 'huang sui' that vegetable stallkeepers toss in for free at wet markets. People use it mainly as a garnish, but it's got such a lovely, refreshing flavour. You don't notice it's there, but it really adds a dramatic edge to a recipe.
What's the most overrated ingredient?
Truffles. I don't understand what's so great about it, and the slivers are cut too thin for anyone to taste anything anyway. I don't see the point really.
What eating places do you go back to again and again?
I've been going to Margarita's in East Coast Road for over six years for its frozen margarita and chicken burrito. I also like Mongkok Eating House in Geylang Lorong 8 for its beef hor fun; Keyaki Bar at The Pan Pacific Hotel for lychee martinis and ikan bilis snacks; Pontini at Grand Copthorne for pizza, pasta and its tapas buffet; Roland's Restaurant in Block 89 Marine Parade Central for its dimsum and sambal potato leaves; Le Bistrot at the Singapore Indoor Stadium for its duck confit; and 126 Eating House in Sims Avenue for its very creative dimsum.
WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?
'I'll have a cocktail of Frozen Premium Margarita from Margarita's in East Coast Road, made by the owner Vivien. It's the best frozen margarita on earth, no kidding.
Then a bowl of oats cooked in soy sauce with minced pork that my grandma's old maidservant once made for me when I was in kindergarten and down with the mumps. Never had it or saw such a dish ever again. But it was so good.
Followed by my Mum's deep-fried chicken drumsticks which I grew up on. Then a full spread of authentic Teochew porridge including salted eggs, steamed pork with salted fish, chai poh (preserved radish) omelette, pork with pickled olive and slabs of fu yu (fermented beancurd). Then end with Teochew oh nee (yam paste dessert) and a lychee martini.'
|Is this article useful to you?