A Reservist’s Food Review – Army Cookhouse Cuisine
We love and hate army cookhouse food, or what Cyberpioneer describes as “cookhouse cuisine”. Before somebody from the military arrests me for taking photos in camp, I must add the disclaimer: The pictures are taken from an open house in a span of 2 days, and truly reflect what the soldiers ate. If they appear to be ‘colourless’, pictures reflect reality.
Before 1997 when I was still a recruit, BMT food comprised of sand in the rice, bouncing fish balls, rubbery meat pieces, and the only good times were when deep-fried chicken patties were supplied. I prayed hard that curry would never never ever served, because lowest-rank recruits had to wash the gravy-filled containers. After 1997, it was a turn for the better with Singapore Food Industries (SFI) and Foodfare Catering (FFC) heading the commercialised cookhouses.
But did it spell the end of unidentified veggies, sandy rice, and mutated meat?
Yes, there were occasions during in-camp trainings when we had indulgences of Western food. That meant chicken chop with fries and mushroom soup with mushroom inside! Add a stick of potong ice cream. Though little was mentioned that the feedback survey was also coming, and what better way to score points that with ‘healthy’ deep-fried food.
The army makes sure that soldiers are well-fed with at least 2,500kcal a day. That translates to five meals including two night snacks. I once had rather delicious oily fried mee goreng for ‘night snack’, though it came rather early before 6 pm.
Here is a sample of the daily breakfast – Khong Guan bao with lo mai kai, or sausages with bread, soggy hashbrown and mash-potato lookalike fried egg. I would say breakfast is good 40% of the time. Still, there were often several complaints for breakfast. I suspect the complaints won’t be so much if not for rumours of army food costing $6.50 per meal, which is equivalent to a ‘Big Breakfast’ price, without that big breakfast.
The platoon would delight during Day One if chicken drumstick is served. But sometimes it could mean that the same type of drumstick is served Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, sometimes lunch and dinner in various combinations of dark, curry, soy, curry and curry sauce. We suspect that the caterers over mass-ordered.
The meats and dried items are usually better cooked than the greens, or should I say yellows. That is the result of over-frying in another unidentified sauce.
Perhaps a possible gauge of whether the food is delicious is to see how much is thrown away. I do get mildly upset when I see how much land up at the trashbags sometimes, with soldiers rather having Super cup noodles. You know what I mean, it’s Super. Some may see the younger generation as spoilt children wasting food when the poor do not even have enough to survive in 3rd world countries. That is not the point. Has anything concrete been done to improve quality and reduce wastage throughout these years of implementation?
Officers are usually served better food than the men, in a separate counter. Still, many are observed to still drive out or make their ways to canteen where they have to pay their food. So why?
(Above image from cyberpioneerTV)
True enough, in the army, it’s eat to live and not live to eat. And cookhouse food has been a huge improvement from before. I appreciate the creativity and effort put into meals with kway chap and bak kut teh. So fellow soldiers, do you love or hate cookhouse food?
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