SAF combat rations turned into fine dining in innovative photo set

A popsicle moulded from rice and dusted with iced lemon tea powder.
A popsicle moulded from rice and dusted with iced lemon tea powder. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NG ENG HEN, JOHN HENG
The sweet potato soup with barley dessert pack is remade as a quenelle sprinkled with white sauce made with milk powder sieved from the plain cereal drink mix.
The sweet potato soup with barley dessert pack is remade as a quenelle sprinkled with white sauce made with milk powder sieved from the plain cereal drink mix. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NG ENG HEN, JOHN HENG

SINGAPORE - Who says combat rations are dreary?

A photographer and his team have taken the Singapore Armed Forces' ration packs and transformed them into stylishly plated dishes worthy of fine dining.

The dishes were captured in a scrumptious series of shots by 38-year-old photographer John Heng as a personal homage to NS50, which celebrates 50 years of national service.

He was assisted by Soh Quiling, Gin Khoo and Jimmy Sng, according to Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who shared the photos on Facebook on Thursday (Oct 19).

"John transformed the familiar ration pack into creative culinary photo pieces," wrote Dr Ng.

Mr Heng, who has been in the photography business for about 10 years, told The Straits Times on Friday that he took up suggestions from his friends on Facebook who tagged him in posts about similar recreations in the United States using military food.

"Someone said: Dude you should do something like that for Singapore, for Singapore to have some representation," he said. "It was more a challenge to ourselves to see what we can come up with."

Mr Heng, who was previously a freelance photographer with The Business Times and credits it for getting his start in food photography, said he put up a notice on Facebook asking for links to the combat rations. 

He and his team of freelance photographers and friends were eventually linked up with Mindef.

"We knew what it will look like, mushy and all, but we wanted to see if we can figure out how it will look like in a fine dining food world," he said. "For example the lollipop we did it like an amuse-bouche, which is a starter for fine dining."

This dish is a popsicle moulded from rice and dusted with iced lemon tea powder, with ingredients from fragrant chicken rice with mushroom and iced lemon tea from the non-halal pack 6.


The sweet potato soup with barley dessert pack is remade as a quenelle. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NG ENG HEN, JOHN HENG

Another dish featured components from the sweet potato soup with barley dessert pack, which were recreated as a quenelle sprinkled with milk powder sieved from the plain cereal drink mix.


A dessert using chocolate cereal mix, an apricot fruit bar and oat-flavoured biscuit. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NG ENG HEN, JOHN HENG

An apricot fruit bar was sliced up and combined with three packs of reduced chocolate cereal mix, with a dusting of oat-flavoured biscuit over the concoction for a dessert creation.


Glutinous rice balls with peanut and hardtack biscuits. 
PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NG ENG HEN, JOHN HENG

Netizens praised the team for their creativity.


Keropok and Makhani bean stew with shredded chicken. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NG ENG HEN, JOHN HENG

One Facebook user, Tan Thiam Hock, said the food should be "sent to Gordon Ramsay for review", while Ramesh Kulandaivelu praised the "amazing photography".


John Heng, 38, transformed the familiar ration packs into creative culinary pieces. 
PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NG ENG HEN, JOHN HENG

The concept of plating ordinary foods in fine dining style is not new. @chefjacqueslamerde, the rude nom de plume of real-life chef Christine Flynn, became a bona fide Instagram star with elaborately tweezed and styled dishes created from junk food.