New Singaporean resto on the blocBy Charisse Ursal
CEBU CITY—When two friends got together and decided to put up their own business, they came up with the idea of starting a restaurant.
After all, one of them worked as a chef in Singapore.
This is how Uncle Noodles, a Singaporean-inspired noodle shop, came into existence.
When Vance Borja, chef and one of the owners of Uncle Noodles, returned to Cebu after a three-year stint as chef in two Singaporean restaurants, he convinced his friend, Carlos Porras to invest in a noodle shop.
Borja draws from his experience as a chef in the Lion City from 2008 to 2010. He first worked at the Serenity Spanish Bar and Restaurant and then transferred to the Happy Days Café where he became the head chef, creating his own menu of Western, Mediterranean and local Singaporean dishes.
Borja graduated from the University of San Jose Recoletos with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. Porras got his mechanical engineering degree at the University of San Carlos (USC).
The two became friends when they became schoolmates at the USC when both were in their freshmen years. Borja transferred to USJ-R after first year in USC.
The two friends opened the Uncle Noodles in July 2011. They came up with the concept for their food business because they wanted to introduce a cuisine that was “all-in-one”—new, healthy and affordable.
Borja explains he wanted to give Cebuanos the taste of the noodles he fell in love with by putting up a noodle shop that is at par with the taste sold in Singapore’s popular hawker stalls.
“This is our own take of the Singaporean cuisine that I loved so much back in Singapore,” Borja says.
Borja admits that bringing a new food experience was a risk he and Porras had to take because they did not know how Cebuanos would respond to the noodle culture.
Uncle Noodles, however, offers Cebuanos not just a different dining experience, but also a healthy alternative for fast food meals.
“We serve noodles that have no MSG (monosodium glutamate), which means it’s healthy for the body. We also don’t use so much oil so it’s low in cholesterol,” Borja explains.
Instead of using MSG and oil, Borja opted to use imported spices they call their “secret ingredients.”
Borja, however, says that he likes to use a Singaporean sambal, a chili-based condiment for noodles that enhances the flavor and can be extremely spicy.
The noodle shop serves diners “real meal” with the popular noodle soup or mami in vernacular and dry noodles, which is the trademark of a Singaporean noodle.
Unlike the noodle soup, the dry noodle comes separately with its chicken-based stock soup, where diners can decide the amount of soup to consume.
Both the noodle soup and the dry noodle options come with a variety of toppings that is a mix of shark’s fin, fish balls, bean sprouts, char siu (barbecued meat), danggit, minced meat, mushroom, prawns, and Chinese cabbage with a choice of fragrant oils, chili, black vinegar and soya oil for seasoning.
Uncle Noodles also offers the Singaporean Laksa, an extra spicy noodle loaded with prawns and minced meat.
Uncle Noodles’ main dishes are more expensive than the usual with Special noodle soup at P95 while dry soup at P100. Special Laksa, meanwhile, is sold at P120.
“We want to give our customers the best by using the best ingredients and they don’t come cheap,” Borja explains.
They also offer a “Four Way Chicken Meal:” chicken dry noodles for P140; chicken noodles soup for P130; braised chicken for P190; and chicken rice for P130.
“Filipinos in general love chicken so we included it in the menu,” Porras says.
Recently, Uncle Noodles widened their menu with their savers’ meals: one-piece chicken with rice for P58 and two-piece chicken with rice for P78, to give diners affordable choices.
Their decision of offering Singaporean touch in the menu has paid off.
After a year in business, Borja says they are doing “just fine.”
“I’m very satisfied with it [noodle business],” Porras adds.