Craving food from the homeland
Despite living in the US, Mr Nguyen says his least favourite food is American cuisine, as it lacks the spices that he is accustomed to.
IT'S often said that you can take a person out of his homeland, but you can't take the homeland out of him. Take the Singaporean who emigrates and loves everything about his new home but still misses an oily plate of char kway teow or silken-textured chicken rice.
It's the same case for Vietnamese-American actor Dustin Nguyen, who lives in Los Angeles but still has to have his fill of authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
Besides his passion for film, the 45-year-old actor who will be in town for the Singapore Film Festival is a dedicated foodie with adventurous taste buds. But if he had to make a choice, it would have to be 'Asian cuisine predominantly since I was raised in Vietnam'.
Despite living in the US, his least favourite food is 'American cuisine - it lacks the spices that I'm accustomed to'. That could be why he leans towards the strong, full-bodied flavours of Italian and Spanish cuisine when he's not eating Asian.
Not for him fussy fine dining or Michelin-starred restaurants. 'I do enjoy the fine dining experience for its 'art form', but I prefer home cooking and neighbourhood eateries for their warmth and wholesomeness.'
Based in Los Angeles, he relishes the diversity and quality of the food scene there. 'You have all the ethnic groups living there, and some of the best chefs from those countries are in LA.'
So on any given day, where would one find him? 'If I'm not cooking at home, you will find me at Pho 2000 for the Vietnamese beef noodle soup. Also, Urth Cafe for its unrivalled organic coffee - I only drink very strong coffee, not the Starbucks kind. My current favourite Italian restaurant is Terroni on Beverly Boulevard.'
If one were to ask him for restaurant recommendations, he would not hesitate to send you to 'Terroni for Italian, La Paella for Spanish and Palms Thai Restaurant for authentic Thai food'.
Mr Nguyen first made his name in the 70s TV series 21 Jump Street, in which he co-starred with Johnny Depp.
When the series ended he moved on to other TV shows like VIP and JAG, and worked in movies like 2005's Little Fish with Cate Blanchett, an Australian indie production. From his travels for work and holiday, he names Sydney as a city he enjoyed for 'its diverse but Asian-centric restaurants'.
One of his weirdest dining experiences was in Japan. 'I had raw chicken - with sesame oil, I think. I didn't know it at the time since people around me also ordered it. Never again.'
Although he's in a position to indulge in any cuisine imaginable, he still hankers for a dish from his childhood: 'To this day I still savour this pho dish with thick satay sauce, briskets and pan-fried cow's brain. There was a place in Chinatown in Saigon that was famous for this dish. Every weekend, my parents would take us. There were always lines around the block.'
Although he can't find this dish anymore, there is one kind of food from childhood that he doesn't miss at all. 'I hated chicken skin - the way it tastes and looks.'
Funnily enough, though, 'I didn't think I would like durian, but I fell in love with it'.
And when he first sampled truffles, he was immediately won over. 'Its aroma is so light and unique.'
The man who's a fish specialist at home and also cooks a mean paella and osso bucco last came to Singapore about 15 years ago, where he was taken to Newton Circus. 'Is it still there?' he asks. 'I love that you can go there and sample all these little bites. And the seafood was tremendous there.'
He'll no doubt have an opportunity to relive those Newton memories, even as film fans here enjoy his performances in Rebel - an action-drama where he plays a villain, and the comedy Finishing the Game - 'a fictionalised account of what happened after Bruce Lee died and left an unfinished film'.
He's 'currently preparing my first directing effort on an action/drama in Vietnam this fall' - who knows, maybe he might do a film around Asian food next?
Citibank is also proud to present the 21st Singapore International Film Festival. Citigold clients and Citibank cardmembers get up to $2 off tickets, available at SISTIC authorised agents.
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