SINGAPORE - Inspired by the North Indian spinach and cottage cheese-based palak paneer, two engineering students from Singapore Polytechnic constructed a 3D printed dish that left the judges of the SUTD X Armstrong 3D Printing & Design Innovation Challenge 2022 wanting more.
Mr Chong Ing Kai and Mr Yew Zi Hon, both 19, 3D-printed the bowl-like base of the dish using ingredients such as spinach stems, mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, gelatin and agar agar powder blended together to form a smooth puree that became the ink for the 3D printer.
The bowl had three round cavities into which the students injected spice-heavy pastes inspired by Indian coconut chutney and chicken tikka masala.
It was placed on a leaf-shaped acrylic sheet that was designed by Mr Yew to light up when pressure is applied to it. When the dish was presented to the judges during the final round of the competition in Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on Wednesday (June 8), the plate lit up in bright green when the judges dug their spoons into the dish, drawing applause from the audience.
The duo, whose group name was Yammy, were the winning team in the polytechnic category of the competition, in which six teams from junior colleges and polytechnics competed to win the top prize of $5,000.
These six teams were the winning teams from the first round of the competition on March 18, where 78 students from five polytechnics, 13 junior colleges and International Baccalaureate schools, as well as trainee chefs from the cooking school At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, took part in 3D printing edible dishes made from yam.
The second and final round required the contestants to use food waste, such as discarded stalks and stems from vegetables, as the key component in their dishes to emphasise the importance of preventing food wastage.
"I'm glad that all our preparation came alive and was executed really well. We had a really fun time experimenting with this new 3D food printing technology," said Mr Chong.
The competition aimed to promote 3D printing technology as a tool in the food industry, as well as inspire innovation and creativity in engineering beyond the classroom.
This technology promises increased efficiency in the food industry by allowing food preparation processes to be automated, said Professor Chua Chee Kai, head of SUTD's engineering product development. It could potentially solve labour issues and also create food that would be difficult to prepare by hand.
"In a 3D form, you can decide exactly what ingredient you want to put at every point. For example, if you are preparing food for a fussy patient, you can design it such that there is medication in a small pore of the dish. The technology is still in a nascent stage, and we hope that we can be the catalyst for the use of 3D printing in food," said Prof Chua.
The competition, organised by SUTD, is the first 3D food printing competition in Singapore.
Prof Chua said it was targeted at younger students to get them interested in innovation and technology.
"We wanted this competition to excite the new generation of engineers and make them appreciate how important design and innovation is for our nation," he said.
The other winning pair were students Chinnakonda Sreeranjith Devasreshtha, 18, and Ong Rui En, 17, from Victoria Junior College who won in the junior college and International Baccalaureate schools category.
The judges for the competition were Chef Han Liguang, the founder of the Michelin-starred Restaurant Labyrinth in Esplanade; Mrs Patricia Ong, co-founder of Armstrong Industrial Corp; and Prof Chua Hong Choon, chief executive officer of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and Yishun Health.
The judges loved Yammy's palak paneer-inspired dish, saying it had the richest flavours and made the best use of the 3D printing technology with its aesthetically pleasing form.
"Yammy's dish had really nice flavours, I could eat it for a full meal. In fact, I'd probably pay for it," said Chef Han.