Canteen gemsWe hunt down good eats at three Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) canteens. Don’t read this on an empty stomach.
// Story Teo Jing Ting
// PHOTOS Chua Soon Lye
Just like nenek's
Fauzia Muslim Delight
Sungei Gedong Camp
It's only 11.30am and there's already a queue at Mdm Fauziah Marican's stall at Sungei Gedong Camp.
Formerly a cooking assistant at a hotel, Mdm Fauziah left that job to look after her children full-time but her passion for cooking remained. In 2001, she and her husband decided to open Fauzia Muslim Delight after their children grew up.
Ask about her best sellers and the spritely 60-year-old proudly cites her chicken cutlet and mee soto (spicy noodle soup).
"The chicken cutlet recipe is mine. I marinate it with special ingredients and use my own flour to make it extra crispy," said Mdm Fauziah.
Over the years, she has adapted her food to cater to her health-conscious patrons. For instance, her mee soto broth is lighter and she tries to use leaner meat in her dishes.
The best part of her job? Becoming friends with her customers. "I see a lot of familiar NSmen (Operationally Ready National Servicemen) and they always say 'I'm back for your mee soto, outside not the same!'," said Mdm Fauziah.
"My heart is here. When I close the stall for a day, the boys will ask 'Aunty, why you never open your stall?' Aiyoh, I got attachment to this place already!"
"It's my favourite stall – the curry is flavourful, there's a wide selection and the food is affordable. I love their crispy chicken cutlet!"
Indian Western Fusion
Kranji Camp III
Operating hours: 8am–3pm
Soldiers at Kranji Camp III have it good. One of the camp's best-kept secrets is the Indian Western Fusion stall. Their bestsellers are the carbonara pasta and double beef burger.
The secret lies in the sauces, concocted by main cook Din Ibrahim. The 29-year-old comes in daily at 4.30am to prepare the ingredients for the day.
"I have to make laksa, tom yam, salted egg, carbonara and mushroom sauce. The chicken chop needs to be marinated overnight to infuse the flavours," said Mr Din, who previously worked as a cook at several fine-dining restaurants.
Aided by his parents, Mr Ibrahim Nawer, 57, and Mdm Halimah Saidali, 56, he has been cooking at the stall for five years.
"The In-Camp Training (ICT) guys will come back, tell us that they miss our food and ask why we don't open a stall outside. I tell them 'cos outside's more expensive!" laughed Mr Din.
"I'm happy serving the soldiers. What they want is for the food to be different from other camps and if they are happy, we are happy too."
"The chicken chop is tender and juicy, and the creamy mushroom sauce is good! The portions are filling and the prices are reasonable."
Taste of nostalgia
Nee Soon Camp
Operating hours: 6am–2pm
At Rice Talk, a Chinese rice stall located in Nee Soon Camp, a plate of chicken rice with egg costs just $2.50. Mr Lim Hwee Soong and Mdm Christina Tan, who run the stall, shared that it took more than two months to perfect the recipe for the dish.
The couple comes in at 3am daily to prepare the chicken. "Roasting a chicken takes time, and we have to air it for two hours before roasting so that the skin stays crispy," explained Mr Lim, 62, who has worked at several tze char restaurants.
The stall also serves a range of simple food such as luncheon meat, Taiwan sausage and fish fillet.
Other popular dishes include chicken cutlet and fried rice. The stall also offers free-flow sliced cucumbers, fried peanuts and pickled pineapple.
Located near the Army Deployment Force (ADF) barracks, the stall is frequented by ADF troopers. "The ADF boys are like my kids, they are very nice to us and they all call me mummy!" said Mdm Tan, 60, with a laugh. "They invite us for their weddings and we see them growing from boys to (becoming) fathers. In that sense, it is like I'm cooking for my own family members."
"I love their curry, which is not too spicy. Their dishes are homely and I usually buy my lunch from them."