Foodie Confidential With Wong Ah Yoke

Entertainment lawyer Samuel Seow: Mum and Ma Ling ham

Legal eagle Samuel Seow grew up on luncheon meat fried by his mother and served with fried egg and fries

Entertainment lawyer Samuel Seow is well known in show business circles for representing celebrities in cases that are widely reported.

But few people know that the 43-year-old managing director of Samuel Seow Law Corporation almost became a singer himself.

"I was the champion in the 1990 National Chinese Local Song Talentime," he says. "Tanya Chua was the runner-up."

The singing contest was an annual competition for students in the 1990s and Seow, then a 17-year-old from Victoria Junior College, won with his rendition of an Eric Moo ballad.

His interest in entertainment was why he took on show business cases when he became a lawyer. He also noticed when he started practising law 17 years ago that no one was specialising in such cases.

"So I thought I might as well carve a niche for myself," he says.

  • WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?

  • Chicken curry, luncheon meat and fried rice. Although these days, I - like many people - can have the luxury of eating very good food, these are food from my childhood.

His first "big case" was representing former actress Michelle Saram, who was sued by her Taiwanese management agency for breach of contract in 2001.

The second was to help Chua in her bid to get her former music publisher, Music & Movement, to release the rights to her songs.

He was also in the news a week ago, offering legal help to a group of freelancers, such as wardrobe stylists and art direction assistants, who are owed payment by Two Oceans Film Company, which has closed down.

His firm has associations with legal practices in cities such as Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur.

Seow, who is single, also owns Beam Artistes, a management company representing about 20 artists, including Shane Pow, Jaymee Ong and Paul Foster. The company also organises Manhunt Singapore, an annual male pageant.

What is your comfort food?

I love chicken curry, fried rice and luncheon meat because these are what I grew up on.

But a good chicken curry is hard to find. I like the curry to be very thick, very lemak. I sometimes find it in Kuala Lumpur.

As for my love for luncheon meat, when I was young, my mother would fry it - she called it ham - and served it to me almost every day with fried egg and fries.

When the brand Ma Ling was banned in Singapore some years ago, those were the dark ages of my life. There's no replacement for luncheon meat. I find Spam too oily.

I was very skinny as a child so my mother fed me fatty food.

When I was in Primary 1 to 3, I looked almost anorexic. Then from Primary 4, I started putting on weight and didn't stop.

So you became overweight?

Yes, but five years ago, I started a no-carbohydrate diet. I weighed 95kg when I started the diet and managed to lose more than 15kg to hit 68kg, which was too low for my 1.8m height. I am now about 73kg, which is my ideal weight. I also go to the gym twice a week.

Do you have a favourite cuisine?

I love Baba food because I'm half- Peranakan through my father's family.

Do you have a favourite Peranakan restaurant?

There isn't a very good place. I went to a new restaurant recently, but it was very disappointing.

I used to like Guan Hoe Soon in Joo Chiat Road, but I think its standard has dropped. I still like the foo yong crab there though. I can have a whole plate to myself.

I tried to look for Peranakan food in Penang, but it's so different there. They don't have ayam buah keluak, for example.

So the best is to eat at friends' homes. What are your favourite eateries?

I'm a creature of habit. On most days, I lunch at the Imperial Treasure Noodle and Congee House in 100AM mall next to Amara Hotel.

I usually order half a roast chicken and a plate of barbecued pork collar. Or a dish of egg white fried with prawns that is off the menu. I don't order any carbs.

I sometimes have dim sum too. I like siew mai (pork dumpling), but not har gau (shrimp dumpling), probably because I like pork.

Another restaurant I like to go to is Alkaff Mansion because I like the ambience. For me, food is not the only important thing. I usually order suckling pig. But sometimes, the chef would do a grilled spring chicken that is not on the menu.

I also go to Sushi Murasaki in Millenia Walk for omakase meals.

Don't you eat carbs now?

About once a month, I have a carb day. I like the Jalan Tua Kong bak chor mee. There're a few outlets scattered around the East now and one is in Joo Chiat near where I live. That's the one I go to.

And when I see a plate of fried rice with good wok hei, I abandon my diet. Imperial Treasure has good fried rice.

I also like Xiang Yuan Ji's shen jian bao (Shanghai pan-fried dumpling). The eatery in Jalan Besar is nestled among the bars in the area and is not classy, but the bao is really good.

You travel to Kuala Lumpur often to visit your partnership firm, Seow & Associates.

What do you like to eat there?

The char siew in Kuala Lumpur is the best. There are several places I go to for that, such as Meng Kee in Glenmarie Industrial Park near the Pan Pacific hotel in Shah Alam and Champs, which has a few branches, including in Bangsar.

I would go with business associates and order a big plate of char siew for myself and a medium one for everyone else to share. I won't have any rice, but the rest would order noodles.

I've also tried the sang har meen (fried egg noodle with live prawns) in Jalan Imbi and it's really good. It costs RM110 (S$37) a plate because the prawns are very big and I think the price is okay. The stall owner tells you the price beforehand, which is fair.

What was the most exotic thing you have eaten?

In Shanghai, I ate snake that was braised and served dry at a restaurant in The Cool Docks (Lao Ma Tou), which are factory warehouses by the Bund that have been converted into restaurants - like Clarke Quay.

I could see it was a snake, so I just closed my eyes and ate it. The taste was just okay, like a chewy kind of chicken.

I've also had crocodile in Australia. It was minced and packed in a burger.

Do you cook?

Only luncheon meat and chicken that I cook in an Airfryer.

If you could choose anyone in the world to have a meal with, who would that be?

I never had the chance to talk to my father before he died very suddenly at the age of 63. He was a policeman before going into insurance.

He had diabetes and was in hospital to have his leg amputated, but he was gone in the middle of the night even before the operation.

I would like to have the opportunity to get to know him better. He died 11 years ago, the year I set up my firm. I would like to find out if he would be proud of me.

I would take my parents to a nice restaurant that we couldn't afford when I was young.

• Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'Mum and Ma Ling ham'. Print Edition | Subscribe