Celeb Chow: TV hunk Dominic Lau is a carb monster
His East-meets-West upbringing meant that as a kid, he got to enjoy the best of both culinary worlds.
It's something TV presenter Dominic Lau appreciates even today.
The 33-year-old hunk, who was born in Hong Kong to a Shanghainese father - who died when he was very young - and a British mother, reminisced about his childhood.
"I was raised in a single-parent family and spent a lot of time with my Chinese grandparents in Hong Kong.
"I was introduced to many wonderful Cantonese dishes, as well as stuff like dai pai dong (open-air food stalls), cheong fun (rice noodle rolls) and dim sum.
"(These dishes) were all so normal to me, but definitely out of the ordinary to most people in the West... I suppose at some point, I did take my exposure to such delicious Cantonese fare for granted."
The 1.92m-tall former model subsequently moved to the UK to study, where he developed "the English side" of his palate.
"I have a soft spot for pies and good old scampi and chips," he said.
"Those were the days when I would go to the seaside town of Brighton and have fish and chips wrapped in newspaper with lots of vinegar and salt. I would eat it with little wooden forks and spoons."
Lau, who came across as affable and gregarious, met M over lunch on Monday at La Viva Spanish Tapas & Bar at VivoCity, where he savoured a selection of tapas from garlic prawns to meatballs.
"I love tapas. I spent six to seven weeks shooting the latest season of Supermodelme in Kuala Lumpur. While we were there, I think my (co-presenters) and I had tapas twice a week," he recalled.
Lau, TV host Lisa Selesner and model-actress Ase Wang are the resident judges of reality show Supermodelme Season 5: Sirens, currently showing every Monday at 8pm on Diva (StarHub Ch 513). It features 12 aspiring models competing for top honours.
"Doing Supermodelme was awesome, I wish it was my day job," he said with a laugh.
"I got to clown around on set with two of my closest friends in the industry (referring to Selesner and Wang).
"And yes, I'm a very lucky guy. I go to work and 'check out' 12 beautiful women."
What is your biggest vice, food-wise?
Rice. As a boy, I would come home from school and have a huge bowl of rice with ketchup. And if I still wasn't full, I would have a fried egg on top. I remember going to Chinese restaurants (which had) dishes I disliked - vegetables, ugh! - and I would skip all that and just have lots of rice with soya sauce.
I am a carb monster. I need A LOT of energy.
You're a jet-setter. Any favourite dining spots in Singapore?
When I'm in Singapore, there are two places I always eat at - Boon Tong Kee and Din Tai Fung. Boon Tong Kee not only for its chicken rice, but also its tofu squares, stewed pork belly and kailan.
At Din Tai Fung, I would order the oriental salad, which is a mixture of seaweed, bean sprouts and tofu. It's so nice, I would order two plates of it. Din Tai Fung's shrimp dumplings in soup are great too.
Every time I fly in and out of Singapore, I always go to the 24-hour food court at Changi Airport Terminal One for its wanton noodles. I'm a regular there. The stall owners know me so well they would give me the thicker egg noodles and extra vegetables. (Laughs) The broth is amazing.
Which restaurants in Singapore would you recommend for a romantic date?
I really like Lantern, which is on the roof of The Fullerton Bay Hotel. When it first opened, it was quiet and chill, but now it gets a little rowdy. It's semi-alfresco and you get a lovely view of the Marina Bay waterfront and Marina Bay Sands in the distance.
Do you cook? Any speciality dishes?
I haven't cooked for a party yet but when I do have family or friends over at my place, I like to do charcuterie platters.
I would go down to the deli and get pepper salami, Black Forest ham, pork rillette, Serrano ham and put them all on the chopping board.
I would buy a baguette, slice it thinly, toast it and put it in a basket. Everything is spread out on my coffee table and we would just lounge around and nibble. It's nice to have bites to go with our cocktails.
But as far as real cooking is concerned, let's just say I can fry an egg. (Laughs) Oh yes, I can do salmon fillets. That's very easy. You sear the salmon on both sides, put some juice on it and have it with mashed potatoes or rice.
Any memorable overseas food encounters?
Once, my friends and I were skiing in Switzerland and we were dining at a ski resort. We were having fondue and drinking wine when a food fight suddenly broke out between our group and a group of strangers who were fellow skiers and snowboarders.
In retrospect, it was the most amazing thing to have happened. It was a little dangerous, of course, but it was spectacular. (Laughs)
What happened was, one guy who we didn't know shouted "Shut up!". Then one of my friends went "You shut up!", and that led to the food fight.
At the end, the ski resort staff were pretty upset so we helped clean up the mess. All of us became friends and we went skiing together.