Getting to know Life editor and food writer Tan Hsueh Yun

Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun (in pink) hosted an omakase lunch for Straits Times readers at the Singapore Coffee Festival.
Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun (in pink) hosted an omakase lunch for Straits Times readers at the Singapore Coffee Festival.PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

This short Q&A series with ST's beat reporters lets readers meet the person behind the byline. These are the experts who will be answering readers' questions in our askST section.  

1. How did you become food editor of The Straits Times? 

I had a chat with Warren before he came back to ST and basically persuaded him to create the job.

2.  Which is your best eating assignment? And the worst?

The best would have to be the Seafood Seduction Cruise in Hobart in 2014, it was part of an overseas assignment. A group of us were on a cruiser and we spent almost the entire day on pristine waters being plied with food and sparkling wine. At an oyster farm, the chef hauled up two baskets of oysters from the sea and shucked them fresh for us. Later, the captain dived for sea urchin and abalone, and we ate those as well. But as with everything in my life, this was bittersweet. I had a raging throat infection, so it was like swallowing razor blades. I would LOVE to go back on that cruise and not be ill.

There are two worst eating assignments. 

The first was when I had to try out 24 types of instant noodles over two nights in 2007. Although I had only one mouthful of each packet, I was bloated like a blimp from all that sodium. I could not eat instant noodles for a couple of years after that. 

The other would be trying out a dozen roast meats stalls for a story over two days in 2012. By the end of Day 2, I just wanted to die. And it was ages before I could look at roast duck, roast pork and char siew again, much less eat them.

3. Which is still your all-time favourite eating place?

Everybody asks me this question and it is IMPOSSIBLE to answer. There'll be times when I want sushi and Sushi Sawada in Tokyo is always sublime. There'll be times when I want char kway teow and Meng Kee in Havelock Road will hit the spot nicely. When I want clean, unadorned food, I go to The Naked Finn in Gillman Barracks, where eating the steamed barramundi with rice makes me indescribably happy. 

But honestly, my favourite eating place is my armchair at home. Feet up, scrambled eggs on toast with karasumi (Japanese dried mullet roe) shaved over it, a cup of tea by my side and binge-watching The Great British Bake-Off.

4. Have you ever thought of setting up hungryaskHsueh.com? Why or why not? 

Please. I already have an informal version of that. People ask me for restaurant recommendations through my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tanhsuehyun), via email or corner me on the street. Seriously. Do you think I could make money from this if I set it up formally?

5. It seems like there are many food bloggers around and they get many followers on social media simply by posting nice photos of food. How do you feel about that? 

Er, I post (hopefully) nice photos of food on FB and Instagram too, and sometimes, get a few likes. Social media is a great way to see what people are interested in, what they are eating. 

6. Fill in the blanks: A perfect meal consists of ...

I would say a perfect meal is one shared with good friends. Good company makes good food even better.

7. True or false: Salted egg anything, is the best invention. Period. Why?

It's probably doing terrible things to our cholesterol levels but I am not tired of it yet. Why? Because it's a humble food that people are using in creative ways.

8. If you ever set up a restaurant, what would it look like, what kind of food would you serve and which celebrity would you hire to be a waiter? 

Knowing what I know about the challenges of running a restaurant, I would NEVER run one, ever. Although, I think Stanley Tucci would make a great waiter. He's so droll.