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Feature

What’s cooking on campus?

These NTU students regularly whip up café-quality palate-pleasers in their halls of residence. Chrystal Chan gets the trio to recreate their favourite dishes for HEY! in the kitchen at Tanjong Hall

Master’s student & master chef

Take one look at Jason Lee’s Instagram feed and you may start to feel hungry. His food-filled snaps look straight out of the glossy pages of Epicure magazine. The only difference? Jason cooks, styles and photographs his own dishes… all in the comfort of his hall room in NTU, which comes with a kitchenette.

The graduate student has made a variety of dishes that are every bit as mouthwatering as they are unpronounceable – from an Italian chorizo ragu rigatoni to a Spanish paella and even a Japanese-inspired matcha oreo tart.

Now pursuing a Master of Science in Information Systems in NTU, Jason prefers cooking his own meals to eating out, and has been working the stove ever since his undergrad days at Imperial College London in the UK.

  • No-bake Middle Eastern cheesecake mousse

PHOTOS: LIM SIN THAI

“I am a big eater, so I can cook as much as I can eat. It also means I can make my meals healthier by adding more greens or protein, which hawker stalls usually skimp on,” says the avid cook, whose dream is to own a small restaurant serving rustic fare made from sustainable homegrown ingredients.

Despite having a lot on his plate as a graduate student, he enjoys hosting small dinner parties for his friends, most of whom love to cook as well. To him, it’s a good excuse to hang out, test recipes together and, more importantly, share the workload.

“I do most of the cooking and my friends help with the clean-up. We also split the costs so it becomes quite affordable if we want to try out different cuisines. It’s so much better than dining out, plus we can stay and chat for as long as we like!” he laughs.

Jason shares that the oreo matcha tart was made for a special occasion: “I play in the hall band and one of my bandmates is a huge fan of the green tea dessert, so I made it for the first time for her birthday. It was quite hard to shape the crust properly, but it turned out pretty well in the end. Our entire band shared the tart and I think they enjoyed it very much.”

As for his meticulously styled #foodinspo pictures, he reveals that Pinterest gives him food for thought. “When I can’t decide what I want to cook, I browse Pinterest for inspiration and make whatever pops out at me or a dish I find myself craving. It is also a good resource on how to style food shots, though it is never as easy as it looks! It took me lots of practice to get it just right.”

Armed with a well-stocked kitchen – think carving fork, pestle and mortar, a DIY sous-vide machine and all the appliances every self-respecting cook needs – and having proven that he can make amazing meals even in a compact space on campus, you would think Jason is prepped to become Asia’s next MasterChef, a show he hopes to join one day. But first, he intends on finishing his studies… and overcoming his distaste of coriander.

“That’s a huge no for me,” he grimaces.

These three students cooked their dishes at Tanjong Hall, which has a fully-equipped kitchen and halal cooking studio that have been used for culinary classes and demonstrations under NTU's Residential Education programme.