Serve Them Well – A Commentary by Tay Kay Chin

This post first appeared at mySingapore.sg, thanks Kay Chin for letting us share this with other foodfans!


Being a typical Singaporean, I often talk about food while actually eating. And it doesn’t help that I am surrounded by friends who are like me.

And being mostly optimists, we often talk about the next meal, and the next.

But last night, our conversation took a different course, and went to an area generally known as National Security.

It all started because I asked a young friend, who is still serving the nation through annual in-camp training, if the combo ration (or is it combat ration?) issued by the military has changed.

He happily answered my query and gave us a fairly detailed description of what our men in uniform are served when they are out there defending our country.

I was pleased, at the very least, to find out that the infamous "dog" biscuit, which I have to say didn’t taste so bad if one used a little bit of imagination, has been replaced by something closer to what human consume.

I forgot to ask, and my friend forgot to share, whether the Van Houten chocolate bar has been replaced by Valrhona, but I seriously doubt so.

But in case you think that this is the kind of typical Singaporean macho men talk, let me assure you that you are so wrong.

This topic caught the attention of at least two species who generally shouldn’t be interested in such banter.

A single woman told us she actually tasted some, courtesy of a brave national serviceman.

A Malaysian food writer chipped in to say he had to test it when the ration was revised and launched, several years ago.

Sensing a great interest, I made a bold suggestion that perhaps, the next generation of combo ration should be assembled by the top chefs in Singapore, making up of the best food to be found in the island state.

I didn’t think most of my friends heard me the first time I said, but after a while, they realized that I was serious about it.

Then one said, "Why not? If Singapore Airlines can do it, why not?"

Yes, why not?

So I offered, "I will blog about it." (There you go, the reason for this entry)

Hopefully, someone powerful enough will take my suggestion seriously.

I think another friend said something about serving our soldiers something truly Singaporean, not some rip-off from our neighbors.

And then there was a small discussion about the color of the bak kut teh, on how we have to get it right.

Talk is cheap, really getting this to work will take a lot of effort.

But there is no question what the number one priority should be when designing the cuisine.

"We got to make sure that they get all the nutrients necessary to keep them fit."

Yes, that’s right. Now you know, this is not some irresponsible citizen rantings.

The biggest problem, I predict, is getting down to the few dishes that will go into the short list, at the same time being mindful of the operational needs.

After all, don’t we live in a food paradise?

If it is up to me, these are the must-have: nasi padang from Changi Village, char kway teow from Ghim Moh, 80% dark chocolate macarons from Canele, crispy roti prata from Casuarina Road, wild rocket salad from Wild Rocket, Peking duck from Asia Grand, roasted chicken from Chef Chan, tau huay and tau huay chwee from Short Street.

I got carried away and even started thinking about the packaging, on how they should be designed by our top product designers, until I was brought back to earth by a friend who reminded me that in the field, the packaging must be easily disposable and more importantly, bio-degradable.

This project, or proposal, is at last, too important for a food proletariat like me.

If this blog doesn’t get the appropriate responses, I will do the next best thing and call my friend Seetoh of Makansutra.

In the mean time, eat well and think about our boys.

When you are munching your favorite fritters, kopi-O optional; imagine how happy our defenders will be if they also get one each, in the time of need.


Tay Kay Chin is a Singapore-based photographer.  He has spent more than a decade in newspapers in Singapore and USA and held positions from photographer to presentation editor. He is currently working on several personal photography projects, writing a regular blog, and at the same time taking on selected commercial commissions.

Comments
8 Responses to “Serve Them Well – A Commentary by Tay Kay Chin”
  1. citygent says:

    The food in Singers is the best in the world, so if the ration packs were the best food in Singapore, I’d gladly volunteer for any taste tests :o)

  2. citygent says:

    The food in Singers is the best in the world, so if the ration packs were the best food in Singapore, I’d gladly volunteer for any taste tests :o)

    • i agreeee! what’s ur favourite singapore dish?

      • citygent says:

        oh my…. that’s like asking a Mother who her favourite child is.

        Frankly impossible to say. The street stalls have a range that makes me want to cry when I look on TV and see the plodding fair that the likes of Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver have to offer. People in the UK are chuffed if they boil vegetables properly.

        But the best was actually put forward by Janice’s Mother in Law when I went to visit on my last day in Singers and the very last mouthful was of her spring rolls – my last taste of Singapore – and it stayed with me. :o)

      • citygent says:

        oh my…. that’s like asking a Mother who her favourite child is.

        Frankly impossible to say. The street stalls have a range that makes me want to cry when I look on TV and see the plodding fair that the likes of Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver have to offer. People in the UK are chuffed if they boil vegetables properly.

        But the best was actually put forward by Janice’s Mother in Law when I went to visit on my last day in Singers and the very last mouthful was of her spring rolls – my last taste of Singapore – and it stayed with me. :o)

    • i agreeee! what’s ur favourite singapore dish?

  3. citygent says:

    The food in Singers is the best in the world, so if the ration packs were the best food in Singapore, I’d gladly volunteer for any taste tests :o)

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