ST Life: The Sweet Life

FOODIE CONFIDENTIAL

Bar owner Glenda Han has such a sweet tooth, she can move from starter to dessert

Teo Pau Lin • FOOD CORRESPONDENT


FRENCH DRESSING : Working in Paris gave Glenda Han an appetite for salads.

BAR owner Glenda Han, 30, found her picture published in a newspaper in China two weeks ago. Only thing was, the caption of the photo described her as Chinese national Yu Hong Jin, a masseuse who was murdered in Singapore earlier that week.

Ms Han, who is also deputy secretary of the youth wing of the opposition Workers’ Party, laughed the matter off as “a genuine mistake, it’s no big deal”.

An economics and Japanese Studies graduate from the National University of Singapore, she founded Ig’s Heaven, a popular gifts and homeware store, in 1999. She sold it in 2002, then went to Paris and worked as a babysitter and English teacher for two years.

Miss Han, who is single, opened Les Chameaux cocktail bar in Robertson Quay in 2004, and is in the process of setting up a beauty products business.

She was part of a Workers’ Party team that contested unsuccessfully in Ang Mo Kio GRC in the General Election in May.

You must know a lot about wines to open a bar.

Actually, no. I kind of venture into things quite impulsively. I believe in learning along the way. It was the same with Ig’s Heaven.

What cocktails can you make?

Cosmopolitans and margaritas. I also serve, clean, do the accounts, everything but flare (bartending acrobatics). I’m there five days a week.

Have any of your customers hit on you?

Yes, but it’s a natural instinct, right? But I haven’t and wouldn’t go out with someone I got to know in a bar. Unless he’s super charming, of course.

I heard that your favourite cuisines are French and Japanese. Do you like hawker food?

I do, but only if I can tapow (takeaway). I can’t take the heat and crowds at hawker centres. I want to be comfortable when I eat. That’s going to make me sound so spoilt, but it’s true. Especially when you’re eating and people are standing there looking at your food.

What were your food staples in Paris?

I love the croque-monsieur (grilled ham and cheese sandwich), but I always ask for the croque-madame, which comes with a fried egg. That and a cup of chocolate would be my usual breakfast. Sometimes I’d have cheese fondue or beef bourguignonne (beef stew with red wine).

Did you find the French overly proud of themselves and their food?

Actually, the French aren’t that bad outside of the touristy areas. If you live in the French equivalent of the Housing Board areas, they’re very nice. You can’t walk down the street without saying hello to strangers.

What French food have you missed most since your return?

The salads. They are so fantastic. Over here, salads are just greens with smoked salmon or grilled chicken. But over there, you have greens with carbohydrates, rice or even liver. It’s a complete meal, not just something you eat when on a diet.

What local food did you miss most when you were there?

Laksa, because it’s very cold there and you’d want something hot and spicy. And there wasn’t a single Singaporean restaurant in Paris.

Any food- or drink-related beauty secret?

Water. I try to drink 2 litres every day, and I go to the toilet so often my friends get fed up. They say I should bring along a portable toilet.

But don’t you find that water tastes a little bitter after you’ve had too much of it?

The trick is to add a fresh strawberry into your water flask. Leave it there for two to three days and it’ll give the water a very nice flavour.

What’s your biggest food weakness?

I’ve got a sweet tooth. I always have a pack of M&Ms in my bag. My favourite is the blue one with a peanut inside. Somehow they taste better than the other colours.

Did you lose weight over the General Election period?

Actually, I put on a bit of weight, enough to feel pudgy and sluggish. We didn’t have time for proper meals, so while driving from place to place, I’ll be eating cookies or whatever snacks that were in my car. After rallies at 11pm, I’d go to the petrol kiosk and top up the next day’s snacks. And I’d buy the lor mai kai (glutinous rice with chicken) there, which is so oily and unhealthy but I love it. It’s my favourite petrol kiosk food.

What was your biggest haul of snacks at a petrol kiosk?

Once I spent about $90 just on snacks like cup noodles, Oreos and Famous Amos cookies, M&Ms and Toblerones. In my house, there’s always ice cream, chocolates and cakes. I love to snack. I think I like them more than normal meals. My ideal dine-out menu would be a starter and desserts. I can do without the main course.

What’s one snack you can live on for the rest of your life?

Kit Kat. It’s got chocolate and a wafer inside, so it’s like a chocolate cookie. Two in one.

What’s one thing you wish you could give up?

Oreo cheesecake, it’s a two-in-one again, and that’s really my downfall.

It’s amazing how you’re so slim.

I’m small-boned, that’s all.

If you could invite just about anyone to dinner, who would it be?

Either British actor Ewan McGregor or Mahatma Gandhi. McGregor because he’s my dream man – he’s funny, simple, humble and I love his Scottish accent. And Gandhi because of what he’s accomplished. He’s such a tranquil man, which is hard to find in this crazy world. I’m a Pisces, so I can go from one extreme to another.

tpaulin@sph.com.sg


WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?

“My Mum’s cooking, like her curry chicken and porridge with century egg.”

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