May 3, 2009
Fresh fish or nothing
Low Teo Ping's fishmonger knows only the best catch will do for the ex-banker
By Fiona Low
President of Singapore Sailing Federation Low Teo Ping is so particular about the freshness of his food that he has a personal relationship with his fishmonger.
'He expects me to come every weekend to buy fish, so he keeps the freshest ones for me,' says Mr Low, 56, who also calls the stall owner to check what is available on a regular basis.
The retired banker, who is Teochew, believes in the mantra, 'Live to eat' as opposed to 'Eat to live'.
'I don't want to just eat to survive,' says the foodie, 'I want to be able to enjoy good food.'
For him, food is also a means by which his family bonds.
'Our family has dinner together most nights of the week and it's an important time for us to interact,' says Mr Low, whose two sons, Wen Chun, 19, and Wen Loong, 21, understand that mealtimes must not include television or other distractions.
But despite his love for food, the former rugby player and competitive sailor stresses that moderation is key.
While he enjoys indulging in the occasional plate of char kway teow, he says he is mostly a healthy eater whose daily meals usually include fish and vegetables.
The active sportsman has taken part in sailing competitions in Singapore and Asian countries. He was a silver medallist in the All Japan Hobie 16 Championships in Kamakura, Japan, in 1985 and was conferred the Public Service Medal in 2006 for his outstanding contribution to sports.
Today, he is involved as a volunteer in sports administration and management. In addition to sailing and rugby organisations, he is also vice-president of the Singapore National Olympic Council.
Are you more of an eater or a cook?
I enjoy eating more because I am too lazy to go into the kitchen on most days, although I can cook. But I plan the dinner menu every day and I supervise the cooking done by our domestic helper.
How picky are you about food?
I am quite fast at rejecting bad cooking. Recently, I sent back a dish - grouper in hotpot - because it was overcooked at a Chinese restaurant that is supposedly famous for its seafood dishes.
I am very particular about the texture of fish, so I sent it back even though I was disappointed that I didn't get to eat it.
What is the most outrageous thing you have ever done to satisfy a food craving?
For three months, I hunted high and low for two sisters who used to operate a wonton noodle stall that was situated near the National Library on Stamford Road about 20 years ago. They have since moved to different venues several times.
I finally found them at China Square six months ago, and I was elated.
In your heyday as a rugby player and sailor, did you adhere to a very strict diet?
Yes, there was always a need to eat intelligently to ensure that what you ate today would contribute to your performance tomorrow. I ate a lot of carbohydrates for energy and protein to bulk up.
What do you enjoy cooking for your family?
Teochew hot pot, which consists of slices of white pomfret in yam soup with fresh vegetables and glass noodles. It takes me about an hour to prepare and my whole family enjoys it.
What is your favourite local dish?
I have so many. But if I had to choose, I would say char kway teow. I like it from a particular stall in Ghim Moh, and I eat there about once every fortnight. While I would like to have it more often, the ever-present long queue is a major deterrent.
What is your ultimate comfort food?
A plate of char kway teow, wonton noodles or Teochew porridge with black olives. Growing up in Singapore, food like this reminds me of my roots, of being a Teochew and being an Asian.
What is your one guilty food indulgence?
Tournedoes rossini, which is a French dish of beef steak topped with foie gras. I also enjoy a good carpetbag steak which is steak stuffed with oysters. Both dishes require immaculate cooking in order for them to taste good, and I admire the skill that goes into preparing them.
What is your favourite smell in the kitchen?
Fried garlic. It has a very distinctive aroma.
How do you stay in shape despite indulging in good food?
I exercise a lot to stay healthy. I work out about four days a week and I play golf in between.
What is your signature dish?
I can make a pretty mean chilli crab. And I do everything myself, from killing the crabs to frying them.
My beef horfun is quite good too, with lightly browned horfun, slices of beef and vegetable in a brown sauce.
WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?
A big bowl of Teochew porridge with black olives, salted vegetables, beancurd and peanuts. When I was young, I once had a bad bout of gastric and my mother cooked this for me. So eating this always takes me back to that part of my childhood.