Friday, August 05, 2005

army food

Before i enlisted into the army, my impression of army food was that it is very healthy with nothing fried. How wrong i was.

I ate at the school 2 cookhouse. The food there is catered by NTUC. It tasted more like poison. I still remember the time I had porridge for breakfast. A spoonful of porridge tasted more like a spoonful of salt. But the only meal worth waiting for was lunch on Mondays. There was never anything better than eating a piece of fried chicken with rice, peas and carrots and a piece of corn. So much for cooking healthy food.

Although I was excused from going for field camp, I still had to eat the rations. That tasted just as worse as the cookhouse food. The dumpling rice is not fit for human consumption. The only nice field ration to eat is pasta. I find it nice and creamy. Also for the fact that I actually know what I'm eating makes the whole meal more enjoyable.

I remember after I finished BMT, I received my first issue of the Pioneer magazine. Ironically, the cover story was about army food. It couldn't have been more biased. The profiled the food served at BMTC (ironically the school 2 cookhouse) and my platoon mate was interviewed! He actually said the food was good. I wonder if that was said under duress.

After BMT finished, I was posted to Ayer Rajah Camp. The food at the cookhouse is catered by SFI and for me the food tasted much better. Compared to food cooked by NTUC, I find that the food cooked by SFI is more edible.

Earlier this year I was attached to Paya Lebar Airbase for a week. Lunch was catered by SFI and was laid out buffet style. It was absolutely marvelous. That was probably the first and only time I ever enjoyed eating army food. The food was so nice and hot and it wasn't falling apart like in tekong.


Lance said...

probably the best food you can get in the saf is in tamworth, at the rsaf's airgrading school.

mmm....a buffet for every meal - salads, cheeses, steaks, pasta, ice cream - now *that* was some shit.

bigjer said...

shuddup lah lance, that doesn't even count! nonsense, leh, eating ice cream with every meal. heh very soon can try pierce airbase food already. seeya monday babe!

CGO Bernard Leong shi chuan said...

the best SAF COOKHOUSE is in pasir laba camp . simply outstanding can be counted as restaurant quality !

MaKan GuRu said...

Sigh, how i remeber the days of coloured water, overcooked yellow vegtables, unidentifiable meats in curries, overcooked lumps of noodles, undercooked lumps of rice, fried fish that could be smelled from the bunk and lastly, Yeo's Curry!

If anyone complains abouth the SAF now a days, please don't becuase you guys have NO idea what all the guys went through before you. Ice cream? What ice cream? We were even having Coke withdrawals. At times, the food was so bad, we could not force ourselves to swallow it no matter how hungry we were.

Just enjoy and eat whatever is given to you becuase, no matter how bad you might think it is now, Just remeber, the guys who came berfore you, and even the guys who came before me, had it a hell lot worse.

crackhead said...

its true what makan guru says. but some things are still the same. in tekong i ever had 'mince' broccoli for lunch. the cooks at the cookhouse fail miserably when they try 2 cook fusion food. lunch for my first guard duty was bee hoon with mash potatoes.

kureshii said...

Well, let's not even go into the worst food in the SAF. We'd never finish.

Best cookhouses, let me see. We'll talk about ARMY cookhouses, because talking about RSAF and RSN food whammys my morale into the doldrums. Not that I care now, I've only eaten 5 meals at the cookhouse since getting posted here (excluding duty days of course), but um, back to the point.

Best cookhouses: SOL (school of logistics) - since their staffing is low, it is not cost-effective to get SFI food to them. Their food is cooked by the canteen vendors. For that matter, quite a few other small camps also have their food cooked by canteen vendors. Kudos to them.

SAFTI MI - High proportion of officers (all wing instructors are officers or senior specs), and high-profile training institute. Some of them (OCS commander esp.) actually eat at the cookhouse. I woud dread to read the lashback that would come from a single terrible meal.

ROC/Lancer cookhouses - I know many of you are going to disagree with me at this point. I don't know what they've been feeding you there, but I went with a small training frame and the food was homecooked. Yeah, homecooked. The rice had this glutinuous feel to it that almost everybody loved. And the fish and taiwan sausages simply rocked.

Tekong - Alright, hush now boys. If you'v eeaten at some of the places I've eaten, you'll know Tekong food is actually okay. Not excellent, but average. And you should learn to be contented with average, because that's as much as you get in Tekong. Still, it's not a bad deal. They give out dessert (jelly and ice-cream) quite regularly. The vegetables are frequently mushy, so just learn to be a carnivore, yeah?

And there's always syrup to help wash it down. Tekong syrup is quite well-mixed, unless you happen to be the unlucky last few to eat at the cookhouse, in which case there's probably no syrup for you to sample anyway.

兩鈖錢 said...

i am surprise no one mention brunei langkwi camp food.. wait was it even food?

Kev said...

HQ MC, IMHO.Salmon burgers with potato wedges, ice-cream and "unlimited" chilled fruit servings.

Not too bad.I used to have spaghetti, and though it did not come close, it was palatable enough.Lots of cream of mushroom soup too.

Anyway, regarding Tekong food, it's been said only the CCO cookhouse has edible food, and some Muslim meals are acutally not too bad.

Drew said...

It has to be the Ayer Rajah canteen lah. The muslim food there is simply sedap. OETI is based there and you never hear the famous acronymn for OETI meh? 'Only EAT talk and...'

chrischoo said...

I second Pasir Laba cookhouse food. Maybe it's somewhat psychological, but seeing brigadier generals walking alongside you to the cookhouse to have lunch makes it seem as if the cookhouse has some standard. I personally thought that their food was well-prepared, and it's good to hear that people still think so even though it's been 3 years since I was last there for an exercise.

Pkchukiss said...

Pasir Laba
For a period of time, I was at the School of Military Intelligence for my course. The cookhouse at Pasir Laba serves OK food. Nothing too bad, but it isn't exactly very outstanding either. Edible, serves the purpose as a place to fill your stomach.

Lakiun Camp, Brunei
NSmen cooks are responsible for your meals.

I was there for around 2 weeks.

The food portion is so meagre, I had to resort to the caterer there just to fill my stomach.

Surprisingly, the food tasted quite good, sometimes even surpassing the quality of SFI and NTUC FoodFare.

Heng Chun, PRC
NSmen cooks serve up delicious food with Taiwanese rice. Those "pearl rice" taste really good.

Again, the food there sometimes surpasses that of the professional caterers.

The portions are still bloody too small!

Midnight said...

honestly, you're considered lucky. During my time, food was prepared in cookhouse by a bunch of ah bengs. One of my section mates said that he saw a cook used a broom stick to stir a big pot of soup. This is disgushing.

And, one morning, we (in Tekong Camp III, I think things must have changed now) did not have proper breakfast! because all the cook overslept. We were given combat ration. There was a rumour that all the cooks (including cook sergeant) were charged due to this incident. They took turns to go to detention barracks.

Well, you guys are lucky to have better food now.

Jack Chen said...

Firstly, let's just say that as a Singaporean, we sometimes do not want to look back and compare but rather look forward to the future to do better. Think of it as, if I had to do 'insert something' here, I would have done 'insert better action'.

Sure, back then, SAF was self-sufficient, we had a hospital all the way in Changi which all SAF soldiers and servicemen were sent to for emergency, good if you were facing SARS, you contain the disease; real bad if you were leaking from a gunshot and your camp's in Pasir Laba, being driven there in an old Mercedes (TONNER) doing 40km/h max. I heard a lot of peole died that way.

Well, like in PRISON, people will care about things that matters to them simply because that's all their lives revolves around. I was a combat infantryman. I served in an Army camp and only see my own family during weekends if I even get to book out at all.

Therefore, during this period of staying inside an enclosed environment, you start to be like animals in the zoo. You bitch about the food, how your bunk mates were, the training and the treatment you got. You also wonder about what you are going to occupy yourself with when you have all that time. Training period's over, you just came back from field exercise,

I read a lot during this times, if we can, we watch TV if there's something interesting, but you reach 18, 19 years of age, you are not quite satisfied with national tv channels.

Most people sleep and when they wake up, more often than not it's meal times. You surprisingly spend a lot of time wondering out loud what the food will be today?

There's is nothing else to wonder about. For some, it's family, girlfriend, future, but those thoughts will enter your mind but you feel detached because you are not outside the camp doing things that will make a difference. What you eat though, make a difference in you, right away.

Tekong is the first stop for most people. Despite what they tell you in propaganda, a lot of people still ended up in MONO INTAKES, that sucks because I think that system discriminates, most peole from mono intakes end up in meagre posts and lowly positions as slaves, I never heard of Officers that came out of Mono Intake, I can tell you that, never heard of. So if anyone ever found an example, pls post something.

Okay, Tekong supposedly receives unsold vegetables and meat products from '****', that's why the vegetables always look yellow, meat always tasted funny and there is always pesticide in the veg, fruits and dessert were exceptions because you can tell if an orange is spoilt but you can't tell the same with the food because it can be a whole host of reasons raging from poor cooking, poor handling to poor quality overall. I even heard from another guy that the chief cook of the cookhouse grabbing hold of a recruit who like his entire platoon inserted his meal chip 'for accounting purpose' into the poor column during a weekly survey of cookhouse food. My camp want people to do survey if you did just that, and they want your personal details so they will get personal with you later, believe me, I have seen that, later on that though. Anyway, the chief cook or head chef wanted to know what was wrong with the food. I would suggest doing some animal testing first, REAL animals. Animals are not exactly dumb, they avoid certain food when they know it's poisonous or smell funny. Just like pesticide laden vegetables they serve who do not have any holes. Housewives like my mum look for signs that bugs have gnawed at the vegetables so they know the vegetables is okay. By the way, the preservatives they put into those green packet nowadays, well, animals avoid the food, I have seen it left untouch for days by even ants. That's gotta mean something.

Anyway, Tekong was pretty traumatic for everyone, even those who are physically fitter, will find it tough when they face unreasonable people. I will never understand this people.

After Tekong, I was posted to a unit, others might go though OCS or SISPEC or something else, before you end up in a unit. Like a post above, where you end up matters because it depends on who eats at that cookhouse.

IF the CDF eats at that cookhouse that you go to, believe it or not, it's going to be much better than anywhere else. ALso, I heard, Airforce and Navy tend to be have a higher budget or maybe they get roughly the same budget as Army but since there are less people, you spread more money around, you get better food.

For myself, I build up a relationship with the cookhouse aunties, I mean, most people will just go through the lines and eat what they want and discard what they don't want.

I found that in the Army, there is always a 'by left' way, which is more like a diplomatic channel, you want something to work, give some feedback, LUCKILY these are civilian caterers, so they are open to suggestions. If it can be done within budgets, maybe they will do it. Depends on who you spoke to.

Anyway, yeah, I spoke with the aunties in Army camp sometimes, because I see them more than my own MOTHER, I see them everyday and they will serve me my food. I will tell them things like maybe they can ease up on the butter in the buttery shitty rice they serve for western food days. 1 day a week is Western food day which in my opinion meant no rice day. I don't eat them butter rice. The PR guy may come out and give it a nice name like risotto infused with raisins and spices. I would say 'no thanks, you don't want me shoving this rice up your ass now, do we?'

Anyway, so I give suggestions to the aunties and I get to pick my food sometimes. You turn your head around and you see how your superiors eat. Apparently specs of certain level and officers do not need to queue in line and free to take their own from a buffet style setting, I observe they tend to pick those food that everyone else eats and leave those that everyone else dump in the bin when they return the plates. SO I guess they are human to some extent.

Anyway, my CQ has a good relationship with the chef or the main cook whatever, we managed to get the cook to put some salt in the fries. CAN you imagine that, he never put salt in the french fries before.

Okay, so basically what I said about food in my unit sums up what I found in other units. From what I heard on the unofficial channel or 'grapevine' in management speak, good feedback with some monetary support from budgets can do wonders with your camp food, so 'THE POWER IS YOURS'

Let's talk about overseas camp food.

THAILAND - Kanchanaburi
Saiyuk camp's food is not like Singapore's. It has that home cooked feeling and the produce are all locally source, so it feels like eating rural food, seriously. The good thing about the camp food is that the canteen is opposite where for the equivalent of 1 sing dollar, you can get restaurant style food with a nice beverage, no complaints except on those days where you have no canteen breaks, feels like G.I.'s in Vietnam. I do remember a few of those gay waiters they have, man, shivers down my spine.

BRUNEI - Lakiun Camp
I don't know how to pronouce that name, but I remember this one thing , we have chicken every single meal. I mean every SINGLE meal except breakfast, we have chicken, and I think CHICKEN only. According to the cook, the camp commandant likes chicken. In fact he is the one who pointed out the chicken only fact. The rice like some mention is glutinous like, I guess it's the local variety. Could use better budgets because Brunei is an expensive country.

The canteen is operated by Indians who are most likely Malaysians from across the borders. They sell stuff like what you see in indian coffeeshops and mama shops in Singapore, the difference is the price. Due to the convenience of Brunei Money pegged to the Singapore DOllar, you can easily compare items. Firstly the ubiquitous Maggi mee, available also in Brunei and costs 50 cents a packet. I mean 1 packet, not a big packet with 5 inside. I heard lots of stories about Brunei and did a low budget unlike Thailand and Taiwan. In the end, I survived on 20 dollars the entire time, willing myself to steer clear of canteen aka daylight robbery. However, they are your only moments of civilisation. I think I only buy cups of tea from time to time just to enjoy the canteen break, SOME bloody 3SG heard me saying not buying anything and equal that to no need for canteen break. How anal can you be? Are you paid extra for being mean, c'mon use your brain okay? I can only say, war time good luck avoiding bullets from your own people. SERIOUSLY.

TAIWAN - Hengchun
FIRSTLY, mr pkchukiss,Hengchun is located in the south of Taiwan, known to us as ROC to give them legit status, it means Republic of China. Maybe you are refering to Hengchun, Xiamen, Hokkien province PRC, People's Republic of China, Mainland CHINA, which I never went to, Anyway, the Hengchun I went to is in Taiwan.

I went to Taiwan 3 times, first time with my own battalion for ATEC, my status was training troops.

The last 2 was with ATEC itself as the Aggressors, but my last time was more like UN peacekeepers, I was TOURING the place.

THe long and short of it is who will cook for you.

Apparently in Taiwan, the cooks are n't local. They are NSMEN who were in the past serving NS as cooks and for reservist, due to the fact that there are no more NS cooks in Singapore, I think, they serve their reservist in other SAF bases mostly POOR Army ones. Trust me on that, I spoke with the cooks. It's not like I am big on food, but I find it extremely helpful to build rapport with various stakeholders you find in NS, connections in this way helps, but do not think of it negatively like corruption but more like expediting when that guy is actually your friend who do an extra mile for you or helps you erase some problems. I mean, I have seen those unfortunate buggers who are hated by people and they face double hurdles of army life combined with poor EQ. I am of course an honorable person who do not take advantage of my having known you.

Well, these NS cooks actually can cook having years of experience, but I hate to see the materials they have to work with. Anyway, I guess I can say, it's not the craftsman but the materials.

The canteen is not stellar, can be better. Apparently the guy who gets the tender for the canteen gets it every year. He has connections to some people, so I guess we do not have to elaborate on that. Taiwan like other countries have their practices, I spend a lot of time knowing other people, talking to them, SHOW some humility and do not compare, people actually open their hearts to you. I get a lot of information, believe it or not, not from Scout patrols, but from Ninja vans or roving hawkers who give me information like route taken by the enemy, how many people, where they disembarked to proceed on foot, sometimes pretty precise locations. I must say that I participated in that ATEC the year that 1 CDO didn't get their best combat award. I guess, they are 'suay' our bunch were briefed by myself on their dirty tactics. Read up on things, I learned some things through the Net and Books that Army never thought you will be smart enough to know. Isn't that surprising. I was once refused informal training on how to operate the GPMG because my 3SG said this, if you learn, then when they clean weapon, you will be in on it too. I guess he wants to protect me in that sense. I however went across to the scouts and consulted the scouts and of course helped in cleaning the MG in the end, but I learned a lot, from how the cordite burns and the areas where the residue settles, I found the problematic areas, the areas with the more wear and tear, things that probably armorer will know. Coupled with info from public, it's easy enough.

the favourite subject of all NSMEN and something that is common with all arms of the SAF and no matter where you are.

The green packets. Firstly, my medic told me about this magnesium something coating on the rice and etc is the preservative. Preferably you should cook the food a bit to get that coating off before you eat it, so it's more palatable anyway.
I would now quote the scientists in charge of the Chinese Space Program, they mention this one thing, The most difficult item on the chinese astronaut's menu to preserve is RICE, it breaks down easily, it's difficult to keep the form after cooking, you can never achieve taste and texture with just cooked rice. it's that difficult and impossible to do so with SAF budget anyway. Putting this in mind, I guess those food that do not involve that coating must be unlike Glutinous rice and other unsavoury green packet rice flavours. Meaning they are actually sticky or even liquid to avoid that coating. Pastas come to mind, they are covered in liquid, so they don't have that coating, desserts ranging from Bubor Terigu to Green Bean soup are excellent. They contain sugar, gives sustenence and NO one ever complains about them unless they don't like the flavour.

I like glutinous rice, but when I fish it out of this SAF green packet, in my opinion it is not Glutinous rice, but some chemical. It totally sucks.

TRUTH, I try feeding it to hungry stray dogs in thailand. ONly 1 dog was hungry enough to consume it and the dog VOMITTED the entire packet's contents. Other dogs sniffed it and decided they werent' all that hungry.

Anyway, I heard they have new rations out this time, HOWEVER, I noticed, you were always handed the ones close to expiry. in Logistics term, it means, first in, first out, you get those about to be thrown, so war time, you get fresher ones. So I guess, even with new rations, you will still see those URGH, green packets until they are exhausted.

Anyway, who ever were on those committees are GENIUSES,because their criteria for the food tasting recently was this, the sampling of it must be direct from the packet without added ingredients or whatever and eated COLD like in outfield without heating up. Apparently someone cheated the last time, it was heated up and they got chefs to add something so it didn't taste like it would on green packets. I guess Army was too proud to say it was "SH*T', I mean I read comments by SWO's and CPT's that 'Soldiers will be able to enjoy a tasty hot meal outfield' The only time I come close to that was being allowed to cook my Maggi mee. IF not it's light discipline, so we were consuming our maggi mee RAW, I did it for five days in Taiwan ATEC, because they promised us WONDERFUL things if we can bear with it for 5 days. I say they just don't want us to fuck it up last minute.

Anyway, smuggle in civilian food if you can, I ride in a 1.5 tonner so I can squirrel in food all the time. ALSO, I found Taiwanese food manufacturers to be very good with preserve food. I found these preserved egg in 7-11 nowadays, I first saw them in Taiwan, and I thought to myself, if I was outfield, I can fit 2 eggs in my grenade pouches. HAHAHA, snicker bars also come in very handy in my NO. 4 Pockets, we have 4 pockets on our shirts alone, use them wisely. Our soldiers have no concept of combined arms, we also fight exclusively with bullets or small arms. So use those spare grenade pouches for food instead.

No matter the state of Army food today, I reckon this 'Let's do it better'

Anonymous said...

i feel that the 'old generation' combat ration (sardine, braised meat, baked beans, lemonade powder mix and hard tack, i.e. dog biscuit) in the past is better then the current type of combat ration because it's more edible and easier to consume.
it's called combat ration because soldiers may need to consume on the move, and the current type of combat ration is inconvenient for this purpose.
what DSTA should have done was to, instead of coming up with a totally new menu, they should have stuck to the old menu but thrown in a few more condiments including solid fuel for cooking, maggi noodles and coffee so that troops could enjoy a nice hot meal or a cup of coffee to boost morale when they didn't need to maintain light discpline and could start a fire to either make a nice hot cup of coffee or cook a nice hot noodle meal with their mess tins or heat up their combat ration.