When Cooking was a Crime – Masak in the Singapore Prisons, 1970s–80s by Sheere Ng and Don Wong


Cooking supper was the favourite pastime of many inmates in Singapore’s prisons and Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs) during the 1970s and 1980s. It was carried out illegally, inside their cells or dormitories, and carefully timed to avoid the warders’ scheduled patrols. Chamber pot and mugs were used as cooking pots, plastic bags and blankets turned into fuel. The inmates, mostly male and Chinese, called this elaborate operation “masak”, which means “to cook” in Malay.

When Cooking Was A Crime offers a rare glimpse into the flavours of prison life based on the memories of eight former inmates. It explores how food took on new meanings and tastes for those behind bars through interviews and texts by Sheere Ng and photographic recreations of 35 objects and dishes by Don Wong.


The Straits Times: New book offers a glimpse of illegal prison cooking culture in the 70s and 80s


About Sheere Ng

Sheere Ng writes and researches about food and its intersections with identity and immigration. She is also part of the writing studio In Plain Words.

About Don Wong

Don Wong is a former photojournalist who surveys and photographs changes in the built environments. He approaches his subjects with an unsentimental eye, paying closer attention instead, to their form, details and presence.

About In Practice Theory

Practice Theory is a design studio based in Singapore. We designed brand identities, campaigns, publications, digital and environmental spaces for clients who value the communicative and discursive power of design.

10 in stock

SKU: 1181 Category: Tags: ,


DESIGNED BY Practice Theory
YEAR 2020
DETAILS Softcover with plastic sleeves, 60pp

French Fold, OTA Bind
17.6 x 25cm


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