NEW UBIN LAUNCHES UBINEATS FOR THE SOLO DINER
Homegrown tze char brand’s latest delivery offshoot zeroes in on Truly Singaporean meals for one
As the novel coronavirus continues its widespread trajectory as a full-blown global health crisis, Singaporeans—now in the second phase of the post-Circuit Breaker period where most activities are allowed to resume, with limitations—are coming to terms with new ways of living out “the new normal”. From safe-distancing measures to extended work-from-home arrangements, all signs point to a strange purgatory that will last well beyond the pandemic and shape every aspect of the way those who survive choose to work, live, play, and through all that – eat.
Enter New Ubin, a ‘Truly Singaporean’ culinary institution that has spent the past four decades cultivating a tze char ingenuity alongside the Singaporean palate, only to find themselves at an impasse as their modus operandi—communal dining tables that make for convivial affairs as sharing dishes and chopsticks fly overhead—is now confined to groups of up to five and expected to grow out of favour in the age of safe distancing.
For the 65-year-old co-founder and chief operating officer SM Pang, whose gutsy ambition and agile leadership turned the former Sin Ming industrial estate sleeper hit into a cult favourite that now counts the city-central CHIJMES lifestyle enclave, a hotel in downtown Balestier and a 5,700 square feet canteen cluster in the East as its homes, this only reaffirmed and accelerated the original trajectory he had set out for the family-run business: to bring the kind of scalability found beyond the traditional premises of a brick-and-mortar tze char concept, and into the cloud, where increasingly urbanised lifestyles—and now a global pandemic—are valourising a new breed of solo diners.
“At some point last year each New Ubin started running multiple kitchens—including but not limited to Chinese, Indian and Western—responsible for a menu of over 150 variations of dishes that ran the gamut of what we deemed ‘Truly Singaporean’,” shares SM, referring to the brand’s wayward inclination in recent years to expand the menu beyond regular tze char fare, and into more colourful spectrum of Singapore’s racial fabric, such as Babi Pongteh (braised pork in fermented soy bean sauce) straight out of the Peranakan playbook to Wadeh, a savoury Indian-style fried doughnut served with tomato & coconut chutney.
He goes on to admit, “it would be a mammoth of a feat to scale a tze char eatery at that level of menu complexity, but there was still so much more of Singapore’s cuisine that needed to be represented – many of them not intuitively created for communal dining. It wouldn’t do justice to both the dishes and my team, and to force the issue would be—if I might quote one of the greatest war films of my generation—taking it a bridge too far.”
And so that scalability, a topic that was vigorously discussed and brainstormed for the most parts of 2019 and only a test kitchen in New Ubin Tampines since October last year to its name, is now due to bear fruit. In the second phase of the post-Circuit Breaker period where limited dining out is finally allowed but brick-and-mortar restaurants are hunkering down to find their footing between dine-in and delivery, UbinEats, a virtual restaurant dedicated to ‘Truly Singaporean’ ready-to-eat meals for one, has finally made its timely debut in the cloud on 13 June 2020.