THE CLASSIC (S$4.50) - Beef patty, caramelised onions, American cheese, pickled green chilli
I am not a big fan of burgers. So, when my friend suggested having burgers for dinner, I hesitated. In my mind, I would definitely prefer going for comfort food like a bowl of hot piping noodle soup but when I heard that the stall was ran by a few young men, I said, “Let’s go.” Not because they were young or were men, but because I wanted to try the food prepared by these chaps who, in their youth, were courageous to open up a stall amidst these economic times.
The aesthetics of the stall stood out. Located at the Beach Road Hawker Centre where it is undisputedly famous for its ‘Tulang Merah’, there it was. It was like a café that was kicked out from the ‘hipster community’.
“Why was this fresh, vibrant and millennial-looking stall located here?”.
We went up to look at the menu. Most of the burgers from their menu was sold out. The ones that looked so grand were no longer available and I was disheartened.
“Is this going to be a wasted trip?”.
What was left were the simple and classic burgers and fries. So, we ordered anyway. A simple classic burger, a burger with mushrooms and fries that were sprinkled with bonito flakes.
Our order came.
We took a bite. I looked at inside of the burger.
I took another bite.
Okay, let’s take a side step for a moment. Those who know me knows that I dip almost everything in sauces, especially chili sauce. The more sauce, the better for my palate.
HICKORY SMOKED BEEF BRISKET BURGER (S$5.50) - Pulled beef brisket, homemade BBQ sauce, homemade coleslaw (Egg sunny side up optional at S$0.50)
The burgers from this particular stall - that I doubted; that I judged - the burgers, were so good by itself. The flavours were so deep and rich, yet it seemed as if the ingredients were simple and fundamentally expected to appear in a burger. I finished one burger and was so tempted to get another.
But we have the fries. So, let’s try those.
What is this? It was as if I had the world in my mouth. A mixture of Western and Asian flavours. The very familiar taste of greasy and piping hot French Fries with the signature taste of the Japanese Takoyaki. It was addictive.
OKONOMI FRIES (S$3.50) - Fries, honey, soy sauce, homemade mayonnaise, bonito flakes
Oh God, I wanted to grab a bunch and stuff it all into my mouth.
“Who the heck are these guys?”
My friend and I paid, thanked them and went to do our prayers at a nearby Mosque. Before heading home, we went back to get their contact details.
Because, I just could not let it pass. There was just something different about these guys and their food. I was curious to find out more.
WHO ARE THE MEN BEHIND BURGS BY PROJECT WARUNG?
Burgs by Project Warung was established by three young, driven, enthusiastic men who seek to bring the standard of the halal cuisines in Singapore. They are Muhammad Shah Indra Bin Jasni (25 years old), Muhammad Ridzuan Bin Ayob (23 years old), Lee Syafiq Bin Muhammad Ridzuan Lee (25 years old).
HOW DID BURGS BY PROJECT WARUNG COME ABOUT?
Before becoming chefs and entrepreneurs, Lee Syafiq and Ridzuan were working at terra Tokyo-Italian which is a one-star Michelin restaurant while Shah Indra was working at Bar-Roque and had prior experiences working in Dubai.
They wanted to serve halal food while at the same time, remain relatable to the masses. Hence the term ‘warung’ which in Malay means a small (usually family-owned) stall or restaurant. The three men wanted to have a stall at the heart of the community and portray themselves as a Malay company.
A Chef is a profession. Like any other professionals, the training is long and arduous. After their O Levels, Indra Shah and Lee Syafiq pursued their keen interest in cooking at ITE. After two years, a new diploma course was offered by ITE, called the Technical Diploma in Culinary Arts. They joined as the pioneer batch of the diploma course. The Technical Diploma in Culinary Arts partners with the prestigious French culinary school, Institut Paul Bocuse.
Out of all of the students in the cohort, only 20 students have the opportunity to go for an exchange program in France for about 2.5 years. Indra Shah and Lee Syafiq learnt traditional French Cooking as well as the French language and history.
Subsequently after graduation, Lee Syafiq met Ridzuan at their workplace and together with Shah Indra, the team for Burgs by Project Warung started to form.
WHAT WERE THEIR CHALLENGES
The diploma course and the exchange program with Institut Paul Bocuse was not easy as it was a huge jump from their Nitec courses. They had to complete 52 modules and had the exchange program within 2.5 years. Yet, they pursued on, fueled by their passion in cooking.
The planning and opening of Burgs by Project Warung were also a challenge to them. While working for 14 hours a day, they would scramble to meet each other during their 1 or 2 hour breaks as well as their off days for research. They would do market surveys, research on product supplies such as halal European products and the other aspects in executing a food stall. Hardly, they had enough time to rest and sleep.
Their advice for the those who are in their own Entrepreneurial journey
“Never give up.”
SIGNATURE CHICKEN WINGS - Choice of Honey Soy sauce (non-spicy) or Korean Style sauce (spicy) - S$3.90 for 4, S$4.90 for 6, S$5.90 for 8.
Personally, after tasting (or rather, devouring) their food and getting to know them and their story in person, I felt truly humbled.
During the interview, I could not sense an ounce of pride. Instead, all that I could feel was their stronghold belief to continuously serve the community with their food and culinary skills. Portraying themselves as a Malay company, Burgs by Project Warung sets their vision to become a leading hospitality company that serves halal alternatives for the masses.
During an interview with Berita Harian in 2013, Lee Syafiq and Inda Shah shared their dreams to open up a restaurant in 2020. Well, let’s just say, 2020 came 3 years earlier and we (the community) is grateful for that.
Project Warung has their eyes in opening out another outlet to offer a new range of burgers. What’s for sure, we will definitely be standing in line to get a taste of their gourmet burgers, in the heartlands of Singapore.
And speaking of taste, we’ve roped in our friends at The Halal Food Blog to give you a full taste-test review on the Burgs burgers. We could tell you ourselves but we’ll leave it up to the experts. Head on down to www.thehalalfoodblog.com to catch the full review.
In the meantime, enjoy the video. WARNING: Graphic images will make you salivate. :)
Burgs by Project Warung: Golden Mile Food Centre B1-24, Singapore 199583
*all prices stated here may change and menu items may change