Photo: Dalene Low

Tosh Zhang is so obsessed with Asian food that he packed his cooker from home when he travelled abroad for work just so he could prepare Maggi mee and laksa.

The local actor has been travelling for the past few months for Lingo Tango, a new StarHub travelogue which premieres later this year.

In the show, he explores countries in Asia and Europe to experience different cultures and cuisines alongside his fellow Ah Boys To Men co-star Wang Weiliang.

Grilled Salmon

Zhang, 28, told The New Paper: “The hardest (thing) for me to leave behind while travelling is Singapore food. I always miss the local stuff.”

The furthest place he ventured to for Lingo Tango was Tuwa village in China, where he ate horse meat.

“It was really weird as it had a gamey taste. The villagers poached and cooked it with ginger, onion and salt. 

Calamari with Chipotle Mayonnaise Sauce

It looked like lamb chops, but the moment I put it in my mouth, my whole body rejected the taste, but I had to hold it down,” he said, laughing.

We sat down with the JM Artiste, who is marketed by FLY Entertainment, for dinner at Muchos in Clarke Quay, where he ordered Mexican fare such as the Vegetarian Taco Salad with Chipotle Mango Dressing, Calamari with Chipotle Mayonnaise Sauce, Grilled Salmon, Shredded Chicken Tostadas and, to top it all off, a Mango Frosty Margarita.

Zhang may not be familiar with Mexican grub except for tacos, but when he took a bite of the fried calamari, he nodded approvingly.

Shredded Chicken Tostadas

He said: “This calamari dish is one of the better ones I’ve had, sometimes when you go to places serving calamari, the food looks meaty outside, but once you take a bite, it is all air inside.

“I really like calamari like this as it is crispy and fresh – this is how calamari should be made.”

Zhang will start filming the next instalment of the Ah Boys film franchise this month, which sees him reprising his role as the strict Sergeant Ong.

What was your experience like at Tuwa village?

We had to take three flights and drive for another 10 hours as it is near the Russian border.

The process of getting there was tiring, but when we met the locals, I realised that no matter how different we are in terms of language, we are still similar in so many ways.

The parents there still hope that their kids can go to school and live a different life. And to see how they are still hunting for food, and the kids are still walking four to five kilometres in snow to school, it made me realise how comfortable life is in Singapore.

Do you have a deeper knowledge of food after filming Lingo Tango?

I feel I have a better appreciation. It made me realise how special Singapore cuisine is because we have a huge variety, such as Indian, Malay and Chinese.

I managed to try a lot of food that I never would have tried.

Every place you go, you get to try the local food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Maybe during the first day, you might not be used to it, but after a while, you will realise that you like the dishes and drinks a lot.

Also, people always gravitate towards the taste they grew up with. I took kaya to China, and when I let the locals try it, they felt that it was too sweet. When they let me try their bread spreads, I felt that it tasted weird or bland.

Are you currently on any dietary restrictions for Ah Boys 4’s filming?

Yes I am, which really sucks. I am trying to cut out rice, which I really love. Something about white rice just tastes so good. Rice goes well with everything and if I can’t have it, I feel a bit moody (laughs).

But you really can see a difference in your physique, after two weeks to a month, when you cut out rice from your diet.

Do the cast members cook for one another?

We don’t. I think the only one who can cook is Joshua (Tan). He can make steak and burgers, he is the “boyfriend material” kind.

I have never eaten his food before though. I’ve only seen (it) on his Instagram profile.

This story first appeared on The New Paper on June 1, 2017.