Ex-SAF Regular Cooks Up A Storm On TikTok With Mess-Tin Meals
"Ranger eats what ah?"
That is how Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) instructor and ex-Ranger Aziz Shafii - who left the Singapore Armed Forces in February this year after a 16-year military career - facetiously begins all his mess-tin TikTok videos.
"While I was in the Army, I completed my Ranger course, and thought [the handle] had a good ring to it. It fit my persona and I love to eat," says Aziz (who is @rangereats on TikTok). "I mean, looking back, if I had the opportunity, I would have definitely cooked for my ranger buddies during the course."
Watch any of his sedap TikToks, and - especially for those of us who've been through or are going through national service - memories of outfield food will hit us in the face the same way the pungent odour of durians does every June to August. (We'll let you decide whether that's a good or bad thing. ✌️)
Without a doubt, the ex-Platoon Commander of Knights Company in Specialist Cadet School 3 has a culinary gift - and a shtick that works. Not only has he taken the humble mess-tin meal to new levels which NSFs can only dream about (hallo, Smoked Duck Buns and Butter Chicken in a mess tin?? 🤤), he was also approached for a spot on "MasterChef Singapore" Season 4, and shortlisted for the second round of auditions.
Sadly, he had to give it up due to conflicting schedules. "They found me through TikTok and Instagram, and thought it might be interesting to have me on the show. I was excited for it too, but it clashed with my Outward Bound Singapore 21 Day challenge, and I had to turn it down," says Aziz.
"But if there is a season 5, I would definitely try again!"
We speak to the 38-year-old about how his life in the military inspired this channel, why food is so important to our troops, and his fav creations on TikTok.
Aziz (left) was featured in one of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's Instagram posts thanking NSFs and NSmen for defending Singapore.
Spill the sauce on how this awesome mess-tin meal idea came about!
The original inspiration came when I was in the jungles of Brunei with my men. We were going on a land expedition, and discussing what else we could eat for the next three days other than Maggi - and they had no ideas whatsoever. I decided, "I want to try biryani." I took on the challenge and managed to get ingredients from the canteen and tried it out.
[At that point,] I believed that we could cook a lot more things [in a mess tin] other than Maggi, but the question was, how? And then the idea came: maybe I should start a channel doing all these mess-tin cooking videos because no one had done it yet.
Creativity aside, not many people realise the importance of feeding our soldiers hor!
I believe the Army fights with its stomach. When the soldiers are fed and well-nourished, it will give their bodies energy to train, and they will give their best, knowing that their primary welfare is taken care of.
What are your top three creations on your channel?
Army Corned Beef, Mess Tin Briyani and Mess Tin Kacang Pool - I've cooked all of these meals during training. I remember once I was with my buddy David Ng, and we were digging a fire trench. Both of us spent the whole night digging. We took a break and decided it was time to have a feast. Onions, chilli and eggs came out, and the rest was history. Oh boy, those were the days!
What's your biggest takeaway from maintaining this channel?
I have learnt that you can't teach anyone how to cook. You can only inspire and show people how, but it's up to them if they want to teach themselves. The recipes are just guidelines for me - to be a good cook, you need to try it out yourself, make mistakes, learn from them, and see what suits you.
In one of your TikToks, you mentioned how "food is not just fuel for the body, but a means to get people together". How so?
Families coming home and having dinner together at the end of the day, friends going over to each other's homes for barbecues over the weekend, cooking corned beef out in the field with the men gathered around a fire... I feel that food has this magic of bringing people together.