Foodie Confidential

He ate worms and hen's uterus

Mr Desmond Sim, who works for real estate agency CBRE, has eaten exotic things, but he also enjoys a good prata

Who: Mr Desmond Sim, 43, head of research for Singapore and Southeast Asia at real estate agency CBRE.

The bachelor has more than 15 years of experience working in real estate, with particular interest in the area of retail and food outlets. He travels frequently to Japan, Thailand and Vietnam for work.

What are your thoughts on the booming food and beverage scene?

People are more affluent and well-travelled now, which encourages restaurant owners to create new concepts and test them out in areas such as the Central Business District. Poke bowl outlets probably would not have worked 10 years ago.

You cannnot eat online. Yes, there is food delivery now, but that works mainly for the lower-end dining sector.

High-end restaurants rely on the dining experience to draw in customers and for people to consume alcohol.

It is natural for more F&B outlets to open - you don't ask people to meet in the library, you ask to meet for coffee or dinner.

  • WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?

  • Anything cooked by my mother. She makes great mee siam and steamed yam cake.

Has this encouraged people to spend more on food?

The millennial generation has no issue spending at least $10 for lunch. They don't really have to save for big ticket items such as cars or property, so their money goes to food.

Where are your food haunts?

Ban Leong Wah Hoe Seafood Restaurant in Casuarina Road because I grew up in the area. I have its number on speed dial.

I eat there once a month and it's one of the few places where I can order without looking at the menu.

I must have the pepper crab, prawn paste chicken, fried mee sua and hot plate beancurd. It must be doing something right if it can survive for 30 years.

In the past, I would have prata at the neighbouring Casuarina Curry. Now, the best prata is at Sin Ming Roti Prata at 24 Sin Ming Road. The prata is crispy outside but soft inside.

What is your favourite cuisine?

Japanese food, especially yakitori (Japanese grilled chicken skewers).

I go to Nanbantei Japanese Restaurant at Far East Plaza. I love that burnt fragrance, similar to the aroma of wok hei from zi char dishes.

I like the unagi at Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant in Keong Saik Road.

For sashimi and sushi, I go to Ryoshi Sushi Ikeikemaru at Liang Court. I used to go to Fish Mart Sakuraya as well, as it brings in fresh supplies of fish. It sells sashimi in big portions though, so you need a lot of people to dine with you.

I prefer yakitori over sashimi because you can really taste the chef's skills in cooking the meat. With sashimi, you are paying more for the logistics of bringing in fresh fish.

What's the most unusual skewer you've eaten?

In a yakitori joint in Japan, I tried chochin, which is hen's uterus. There were two undeveloped egg yolks attached to it. It was quite chewy and the eggs burst in my mouth - like eating poached eggs.

What other exotic food have you eaten?

I've had fried mealworms in Thailand and live grub in Australia's Outback. I'll never touch turtle soup, because I remember how it was prepared, from the time when I followed my mother to the market as a child. That was when I realised that a turtle can scream.

What are your thoughts on the hawker food scene?

My concern is that we are losing traditional hawker foods because we are not exposed to them. Now, when people eat kway chap, you see them order beancurd and tau pok, but no innards at all.

For pig's blood, I have to go to Bangkok to eat it. Another dish we are seeing less of is satay beehoon.

Why is satay beehoon so special to you?

My late maternal grandfather used to be a satay beehoon seller in the 1980s at a coffee shop in Kovan.

I remember him making the satay sauce, which he learnt from the neighbouring satay stall. He put his own twist to it by adding five-spice powder.

He died when I was eight years old, but he left his mark. Once, my late grandmother (his wife) was in an ambulance to the hospital, and when the driver drove past the coffee shop, he commented that he remembered an old satay beehoon stall there. It's a pity that only my two uncles know the recipe. I'd better get the recipe recorded.

Can you cook?

Yes, I can. When I was in Primary 6, my mother got me to cook dinner. She would do the preparation, but I did the cooking.

For lunch, I normally pack a salad and I make my own dressing with lemon juice, orange juice and chia seeds, a natural thickener. Sometimes I add mirin, fish sauce and chilli.

I've been experimenting with making my own bread with a breadmaker. When I started, I didn't realise you need to use high-gluten flour and I had never heard of bread flour. So, the first few times, my loaves turned out flat, but still edible.

What food invention would you like to see?

It is difficult to achieve wok hei when cooking at home. I've never succeeded because my wok is never hot enough. Plus, you need many years of experience to get burnt perfection.

So someone needs to invent a wok hei spray. After you cook, just spray your food with the essence of wok hei and everyone will think you're a brilliant cook.

What's your favourite cooking show?

Reality cooking competition MasterChef Australia.

Its contestants have very good cooking skills. Australia has amazing produce and when I'm there, I eat at George Calombaris' restaurant The Press Club in Melbourne. In Sydney, I go to bills by Bill Granger for breakfast.

If you could have a meal with anyone, who would you pick?

Manchester United's former manager Alex Ferguson, whom I admire for his great leadership.

The team members might not be world-class players, but he made them hungry to win.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 29, 2017, with the headline 'He ate worms and hen's uterus'. Print Edition | Subscribe