Masterchef Singapore winner Zander Ng on how to make jalapeño mac and cheese

Not a risotto

Text: Janice Sim


Life has certainly been quite different for Zander Ng, after clinching the inaugural title of Masterchef Singapore. He now spends most of his time travelling (as seen in Chef Mission on Channel 5) and cooking, whether for private dining events or special restaurant pop-ups. But one thing that hasn't changed, is a time-treasured recipe citing back to his days as a student. No fancy shenanigans, no bougie plating, but back to the basics — a humble mac and cheese. Or what Ng likes to call borderline trashy.

His twist involves a little heat borrowed from slices of jalapeno, and yes having invaded his home just to get a taste of it — we can say it's perfect for the late-night munchies. If only calories weren't a thing.

Recipe for Zander's jalapeño macaroni & cheese
Serves 8

Here's what you need:

500g Elbow Macaroni
¼ cup Sliced Jalapeño, reserve brining liquid
35g Unsalted Butter
390g Evaporated Milk (Full Cream)
250g Cream Cheese
250g Sharp Cheddar
60g Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ cup Breadcrumbs
1 ½ tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
¼ tsp Smoked Paprika
Sea-Salt & Cracked Black Pepper to taste

How to make it:

1. Preheat your oven to 220°C and bring a large pot of water to the boil.
2. Add the butter to a large non-stick saucepan on medium-low heat. Once it has melted, add the paprika and cook for 30 seconds and it becomes fragrant.
3. Now add the softened cream cheese, break it down with a wooden spoon at first moving on to a whisk once it has melted.
4. To your pot of boiling water, add a generous amount of salt. Now you can add your elbow macaroni to it. Give it a good stir for the first 30 seconds so that it doesn't clump and stick together at the bottom.
5. Add the evaporated milk and mix with a whisk, make sure there are no clumps left over from the cream cheese. Once it's smooth you can start to add in cheddar cheese and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Continue to stir until all your cheese has melted into the sauce.
6. Add the sliced jalapeño, the reserved brining liquid and the Worcestershire sauce. Mix and taste for seasoning.
7. Check on your elbow macaroni, it should nearly be done. You want to cook it until it's al dente and still has a slight bite to it. Drain it and keep about 2 cups of the cooking water.
8. Add your macaroni to the cheese sauce and mix very well, making sure each piece is evenly coated. Taste for seasoning before proceeding. More salt? More cheese? A dash more of Worcestershire sauce? It's totally up to you and what you like at this point.
9. Into a baking dish, pour the macaroni & cheese mixture. If it's doesn't have a lot of sauce it's important to add some of the reserved cooking water. You need it to have a surplus of 'cheesy liquid' because the pasta will continue to absorb the liquid once you put it into the oven.
10. Top with breadcrumbs and place it in the middle section of the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs brown nicely and then take out. Keep checking on it as it can burn very quickly and everyone's oven is slightly different.

Creative Producer: Vanessa Caitlin
Videography: David Bay
Sound: Hazirah Rahim