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Foodie Confidential With Wong Ah Yoke

DJ Anna Lim: Food hits the right frequency

DJ Anna Lim loves food so much that since she joined UFM100.3 15 years ago, all her radio shows have included a food segment

Veteran radio DJ Anna Lim loves food so much that when she joined UFM100.3 after leaving Mediacorp Radio 15 years ago, she asked for a food segment to be included in her programme.

Food has been a part of her shows since. In her current programme, Hello Anna!, which runs on the Singapore Press Holdings-owned Mandarin radio station from 10am to 1pm on weekdays, she interviews chefs and restaurateurs on food and cooking.

The rest of the programme comprises interviews with celebrities and health specialists on top of music.

Lim, 54, has also led tours organised by SPH and travel agencies as a celebrity DJ to places such as Inner Mongolia, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

On these tours, she interacts with listeners of her show, taking photographs with them and making sure everyone stays in a good mood.

The popular DJ, who is single, is also remembered by many listeners for her show's sex segment, which ran for more than two years in the 2000s. Guests went on the show to talk about sex issues.

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"Even now, people who haven't heard the show know me for that," Lim says.

She stopped it about six years ago because it was too difficult to find people willing to talk about their sex problems.

"The case studies were what made the show interesting," she says.

"Otherwise, it was quite dry with just the specialists talking in medical terms."

What made you a foodie? My housewife mother is a very good cook and, although our family is not rich, she is not stingy when she does the marketing. So my siblings and I grew up enjoying good food at home.

We are Hokkien, but my mother can cook dishes from various dialect groups - Teochew, Cantonese. Her Hainanese chicken rice, char siew, "king pork ribs" (a sweet-sour Cantonese dish) and fish maw soup are all excellent.

She can eat a dish in a restaurant and replicate it at home. The children's job is to provide her with feedback and she will improve on it.

My late maternal grandmother was an even better cook. We used to live near her and I went to her place in Beach Road after school, so I grew up with my grandma's cooking too. Are you a good cook? I never had to cook when I was young. And now I live alone so I eat out. But I feel in my bones that if I practise, I can be an okay cook too. What is your favourite food? I like Chinese and Italian cuisine, usually from eateries near my home in Novena.

For Chinese, I like to go to Pu Dong Kitchen in Balmoral Plaza for Shanghai food such as jiaozi (dumpling), fenpi (bean sheets) fishhead, braised pork and fried buns. I like Shanghai food, especially fried croaker fish, but it's hard to find that here.

For Italian, I frequent Da Luca in Goldhill Plaza. I like the linguine in black ink sauce and anything with tomato sauce. I prefer non-creamy sauces.

My favourite pasta is penne because its shape reminds me of the macaroni my mother cooked for me when I fell sick as a child. I think, subconsciously, I see it as comfort food.

Another place I go to very often now is 8Pizza, a modern pizza place at the newly renovated Novena Regency.

When I feel like splurging, I would go for Japanese food. Although the better Japanese places are not cheap, I'd rather save up for them than go to, for example, the conveyor-belt sushi eateries.

I like Tamashii Robataya in North Canal Road. My favourite Japanese dishes are sushi, handrolls and grilled items. Do you have any other comfort food besides penne pasta? Yes and they are all fattening food. I love chicken wings, either barbecued or deep-fried, and curry puffs.

I try to watch my weight, but once every few weeks, I still eat these things.

I usually eat Old Chang Kee curry puffs. Their standard dropped a few years ago when the brand was franchised, but now that the company runs all the outlets itself, they are good again.

For chicken wings, I eat them anywhere I find them, whether from the office cafeteria or Japanese yakitori restaurants.

I like Korean fried chicken too, especially from Chir Chir. And prawn paste chicken from Hong Kong Street Family Restaurant in Novena Gardens. Do you have favourite eateries overseas? In the past, I went to the night markets in Taiwan to look for food. But I don't do that anymore.

Now, I get my Taiwanese friends to take me to places that only the locals know about. And instead of going back to old eateries, I discover new places on each visit.

Recently, we went to a restaurant at Zhentou Shan, a mountain in Tainan in southern Taiwan. It's a fusion restaurant where all the dishes are cooked with local ingredients.

When I go to Hong Kong, I have to eat wonton noodles because it's so different from the Singapore version. I love the shrimp wontons and the soup has a very distinctive flavour.

Even at the Hong Kong airport, you can find good wonton noodles at Ho Hung Kee. It's an outlet of a well-known noodle and congee eatery.

What else do you find interesting about food outside Singapore? When I'm in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, I always order chicken, especially poached or drunken chicken.

It has so much more flavour, so simple poaching is the best way to cook it. You don't need any sauce.

In Taiwan, the pork is fresh, not chilled, and tastes much better.

And vegetables in Hong Kong taste sweet, unlike those in Singapore which are bland and sometimes bitter.

That could be why many children here don't eat vegetables.

•Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline ' Food hits the right frequency'. Print Edition | Subscribe