Sugar-coated memories: MasterChef finalist Nicholas Koh and food content creator unveil dragon playground dessert

Singapore has quite a few iconic landmarks. While the glitzy ones like the Marina Bay Sand are for sure standouts, there’s always a special place in our hearts for the nostalgic gems. 

One of these nostalgic landmark gems has to be the unmistakable dragon playground located in Toa Payoh. 

Over the years, it has become somewhat of a cultural symbol as Singapore’s landscape makes way for newer buildings. 

And now, the old-school playground has been transformed into a dessert for the very first time. 

Home chef Jacky Tan, 41, and MasterChef finalist Nicholas Koh, 43, have joined forces to create an edible piece of art as part of Singapore’s 58th birthday. 

“We wish to commemorate Singapore by revisiting our childhood memories,” Jacky shared. “The dragon playground at Toa Payoh is a cultural icon that invokes nostalgic childhood memories.”

The dragon itself is made with chocolate while the duo used crushed cream crackers and ground sesame for the sand so as to create a grainy texture. For a touch of greenery, they opted for piped kaya mousse to represent grass.

The dessert is also accompanied by candy floss, lychee marbles and bandung-flavoured five stones. “These three elements represent the toys and snacks that were common to us Singaporeans during the 80s and 90s,” Jacky explained. 

Initially, the chefs planned for a two-dimensional design but they decided to take things up a notch. By adding two slides, they essentially made a three-dimensional figurine of the dragon playground. 

One of the challenges they faced was creating the structure as there was no commercially available dragon-shaped mould. So they got creative and made their own stencil.  

A lot of time went into the creation of the dessert as they had to cool the structure in the fridge every time a new chocolate piece was added to it. 

All in all, it took them two and a half days to complete the dessert. Also, the fact that they used local flavours wasn’t lost on us – so extra brownie points!

Sweet, sweet memories

Nicholas, who is currently a freelance private dining chef and a confectionery instructor with Little Bakers Lab shares with us his fond memories of the vintage dragon playground. 

“In the mid 80s when I was about 8 years old, the dragon playground used to be my hangout place,” Nicholas reminisced, mentioning that he would play catching, marbles and even dig holes in the sand.

“There used to be swing chairs and I would sit on it the whole day till my mum called me for dinner”.

For Jacky, the dragon playground holds a special place in his heart. 

“My grandma used to bring me to the playground. As a kid, I was naturally shy so most of my time at the playground, [I] was doing my own things [like] making sandcastles, and watching the other kids play,” the marketing consultant-turned-food content creator shared.

“So, when we revisited the dragon playground again to do some filming and research on the concept for our dessert, a lot of good memories came back. We feel that a part of us wanted to travel back [in] time when we were very young.”

And for those who are interested to try the dessert, you’re in luck as they are holding a caption contest on Facebook.

They are giving away the dragon playground dessert. All you have to do is come up with an inspiring quote or poem about Singapore and National Day.

The one with the best entry will get to take home the sweet masterpiece.


The iconic dragon playground 

This is not the first time the dragon playground has made an appearance. 

In 2019, the dragon playground was showcased as part of the floral display in Orchid Extravaganza at Gardens by the Bay.

And in 2021, local food and beverage chain Koufu had the chairs modelled after the iconic dragon in their headquarters at 1 Woodlands Heights.

What’s the saying? Old is gold. 

ALSO READ: 6 old-school snack shops – including one that just opened in the North – to relive your childhood days

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