It is not every day you get to sample dishes prepared by a celebrity, much less two. But the stars aligned for us yesterday (September 4) when Li Nanxing and Christopher Lee showed off their culinary skills at the Taste Star Charity Cook-off at the Taste Singapore supermarket at Holland Village.
They even brought along their own star lineup of “wait staff” featuring actresses Fann Wong, Constance Song and Julie Tan. Chris’ adorable five-year-old son Zed also made an appearance.
Nanxing and Christopher turn up the heat with their bromance.
Despite the name of the event, it was not a showdown between the two ah ges, but more a bromantic “live” cooking show (“we are Li & Lee Can Cook”) that saw the celeb pals rolling up their sleeves and whipping up a spread for a good cause.
Response to the charity dinner was so overwhelming that all 150 tickets were snapped up within days. All proceeds from the ticket sales of the event will be donated to the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and the Business Times Budding Artiste Fund to support children from low income families.
Nanxing, who has been wowing crowds with his cooking stints at Town Restaurant at The Fullerton Hotel, made his mother's favourite beef and chicken rendang, while Christopher cooked wife Fann’s favourite braised pork belly and stir-fried prawns, a recipe he came up with after having a Eureka moment. And you can bet they were as dishy as the ah ges who cooked them.
If you didn’t manage to score tickets to the cookout, both the rendang and braised pork dishes are also available for pre-order at $19.90 via Taste’s Facebook page – although this version won’t be cooked by the actors themselves.
What's cooking?: Nanxing and Christopher's braised pork belly, beef and chicken rendang, and stir-fried prawns which were as dishy as the ah ges.
While cooking may have looked like a breeze for the actors, preparing for the cook-off was another story altogether.
To make sure their dishes were sale-ready, the pair slogged away at the gourmet supermarket till 11pm the night before.
“I was so nervous that I did not sleep well last night,” revealed Christopher. “This is the first time I am cooking such a huge amount of food at once and I could not get the dishes to taste the way I want. It cannot be half-baked just because I am cooking for charity. I am very particular when it comes to food. I have to pay even more attention since we are selling the dishes ‘cos my reputation is at stake,” he laughed.
Well, all the effort paid off as Fann proclaimed, though after some hesitation, Chris’ stir-fried prawns her favourite dish of the night.
“The har lok (dry-fried prawn) is very fragrant and tasty, and the sauce is well-absorbed into the prawns. It is tender, fresh and flavourful, which is not easy to achieve. In my heart this is the winning dish, and my husband is the best chef in the world. That’s why I married him,” she beamed. Awww!
Fann Wong with her favourite dish, stir-fried prawns.
Since we were on the topic of marriage, we decided to ask the couple about their plans for their 10th wedding anniversary, which falls on September 29.
“You better cook a 12-course dinner for me,” Fann mock-warned, before turning to us to reveal, “But I know he won’t do it because he’s lazy. He only cooks once in a blue moon and he only likes to cook the same few dishes ‘cos he says he needs the right feeling.”
But if that blue moon decides to rise on their wedding anniversary, Chris said he would whip up Western fare, which is something he has never attempted before. “I eat everything, but when it comes to cooking, I prefer Chinese and local food, so even if I were to cook Western food, I would give it an Asian twist. It could be in terms of ingredients or the cooking method.”
“Perhaps I will try roasting lamb, ‘cos my neighbour recently made an awesome lamb dish that I would like to learn how to cook. I am confident I can recreate it if I know the ingredients to the dish.”
He continued: “You know, during our wedding, I told Fann that we should throw a 100-table banquet when we celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary but she said it’s too tiring.” At this point, Fann quipped, “It took me a month to recuperate from our wedding!”
When we suggested they do a smaller scale one and invite Nanxing to be their private chef for the occasion, the couple were all for it.
“I think it is a good idea!” Fann enthused. “Then my hubby can spend dinner with me instead of cooking.”
Zed’s mature tastebuds
However, if Nanxing does decide to take the couple up on their offer, he had better do his homework on “picky eater” Zed, whom Chris reports, has “weird” and mature taste buds.
Rattling on a list of Zed’s culinary likes and dislikes, he said: “He likes eating healthy and doesn’t like candy or junk food. He likes food that is not overly seasoned and retains its original taste, like grilled meat and lamb chops. The only pizza he eats is margherita pizza - he will eat the edges first before making his way to the centre - and his favourite food is rice. Just put the meat and vegetables in and mix it all up. He won't eat it if they are separated. So weird, right?”
Other quirks include drinking ketchup, having his bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (so atas!), and his favourite drink is sparkling water. “He ordered it for himself when he was just one years old. I was in disbelief,” said Chris. “There was once we went out and he asked for Coke. We were more than happy to let him try it, but he took one sip, wrinkled his nose and rejected it.”
Zed is not a fan of sweets and the expression on his face says it all. (Photos: Fann Wong)
Zed also bade goodbye to one of his favourite foods, French fries, after finding out from his dad that it’s junk food. The five-year-old has turned his back on the “lousy food”, and continues poring through educational videos online to find out what’s good and bad for his body.
Nanxing, don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Photos: Aik Chen