Translating her love for food in reel-life, Ya Hui will be tossing noodles, wrapping wantons and sweating it out for her new role as a wanton mee seller in Channel 8’s upcoming long-form drama, 118, and the role coincides nicely with her love for a particular favourite Singaporean dish – Mee Pok dry (with a lot of vinegar, she adds) too.
That’s not all. Ya Hui cited a few more similarities she has with her character, Hong Jin Zhi, which includes her “down to earth” personality and non-dressy style when she goes out. In fact, when we asked for the actress to share her most Singaporean traits, “wearing slippers, shorts and t-shirts to Orchard Road” qualified as one of them.
“I still do it today,” she said. “I don’t really care. I just want to feel comfortable after work and I just want to be myself.”
And she won’t go the extra mile to cover up this Singaporean habit of hers too, she quipped. “I’ll wear sunglasses – but that’s all.”
“Don’t you have an image to maintain as a celebrity?” we asked, to which she replied, “We’re all humans after all, and we still need to feel comfortable after work. And it’s still clothes [I’m wearing] and it’s not like I’m not wearing anything!”
Read on to find out why this avid foodie would rather queue for food than for the best bargains in town (fun fact: she has never queued for a sale) as we suss out some of her secret Singaporean habits. Yes, while she doesn’t queue for sales, she has an aunty side and bargaining for a cheaper price is something she’d do – unabashedly.
What’s a typical Singaporean side you have?
I'm quite aunty actually. Because I’d go to markets with my mum and she'll bargain for a cheaper price, like a 10 cents or 20 cents discount and I'd do that sometimes when I buy my own things. Like if it’s an item priced at $120 - I’d ask them for a cheaper price. I bring this habit with me everywhere I go – from Singapore to Korea and even the night markets in Taiwan.
Do they give you discounts when you ask for it?
Usually yes lah. [I get] a few bucks off but it depends on what I buy too. For example, when you’re buying a camera at Sim Lim Square, you’d tend to bargain for a good price and if they don't agree [with what I quoted them] sometimes I’d just walk off. I'm quite thick skinned in that sense - in a joking manner, of course, and I’d go ‘Aiya, aunty, cheaper please!’ (Laughs).
What’s a non-Singaporean trait you have?
I don't really go for sales. I buy items when I need it and not necessarily during sales. I'll join long queues for good food, but I won't join long queues for shopping. I’d rather eat than shop.
On that note - what’s the longest you’ve ever had to queue for food?
Almost 2 hours and I almost died from it (chuckles). It was for some Zi char store. Even Melben Seafood in Ang Mo Kio took me an hour plus of waiting time. So your mood goes from happy to angry. I don't really do it often though - where got so much time? I will only do it when I have a craving for it.
You’re a foodie then. So are you one of those who follow food trends?
Not really. I'd source for good food online to see the comments people leave on some food blogs and then I’d go and try lor - with my friends, of course, and not alone. I’d travel for good food and my mood will be affected if my lunch or dinner is crap, especially during filming. Sometimes work can get tiring and if you were to eat something that's so distasteful, you'd feel like crap and there’s no enjoyment anymore.
You eat hawker food and la kopi at the kopitiam. So are you a kopi or latte-type of person?
I like it traditional, but of cos I enjoy having Starbucks in an air-conditioned place too. It really depends on my mood. If it’s windy, I don't mind sitting in the kopitiam (coffee shop). But if the weather is really hot I’d choose to have it at an air conditioned place. I prefer teh-c (tea with evaporated milk). I cannot drink coffee because I’d feel nauseous and giddy. I don't know why too.
And what’s your favourite Singaporean breakfast?
The best is toasted kaya butter bread, two eggs and milo OR tau huey and carrot cake. You know the sliced one sold at Whampoa market (that is near MediaCorp) is quite nice.
Last but not least, what’s your favourite Singaporean dish?
Mee pok tar with a lot of vinegar. My favourite store is the one at Crawford Road. When I was filming for Life is Beautiful, the role where I had to wear a fat suit, I went there twice or thrice a week. You must be prepared to standby and queue for at least 45 minutes at almost any time of the day at this store.
There’s always a queue there - even at 3 in the afternoon. But it's damn nice. It's my favourite dish and I’m addicted to it. I have no cravings for it now though.
Catch 50 Ways to be a Singaporean on Thursdays at 8.30pm on Ch5.
Catch 118 on Ch8, weekdays at 7.30pm when it premieres Oct 20. MediaCorp, in collaboration with chat application LINE, will be launching exclusive stickers on Oct 7; they can be downloaded for free.