When you put four boys together, you typically get a boyband. With four gentlemen who are ready to roll their sleeves up and also happen to be down-to-earth chef-owners? You’ll get Overrice, a homegrown brand that’s reminiscent of The Halal Guys, but with a dash of Singaporean-ness added to the mix.
Their story started in 2020, on a cold winter’s night in New York. At a street corner in Manhattan, Hakim, Zuhilmi, Azhar and Shaun stumbled upon a foodtruck that was serving up Mediterranean meats with rice. The meal they had contained a multitude of flavours and ingredients just within a single bowl.
This warm meal convinced them to bring the concept back to Singapore one day.
Starting Overrice during the pandemic
In March 2020, they decided to bring their dreams to fruition from their homes. The business began in the thick of Singapore’s lockdown. With this, the four of them had to do R&D for their dishes separately and remotely, resorting to phone calls and sessions over Zoom. Each of them took charge of one main element of the rice bowl. With their finalised samples, they drove over to each others’ places for tasting when they finally could.
Honestly, it was during COVID that [we had] our breakthrough. That was when we really thought: let’s not waste time anymore and get this going.
Zuhilmi Zailani, one of the four owners of Overrice.
Later in the year, the four finally opened their brick-and-mortar store in the heart of Singapore—Arab Street.
Making a home in Arab Street
Step into Overrice and you’ll be greeted with graffiti-style art on the store’s feature wall—the New York City skyline, painted by hand. A colour palette of black, white, and yellow threads the interior decor together, mirroring the colours of NYC’s iconic taxis.
Even the smallest details are given due attention. At Overrice, biodegradable bowls made from sugarcane pulp—a resource that would otherwise be discarded and burned—are used to serve their food. These bowls are also microwave-safe, making reheating convenient. It’s the little things that show how much thought has been put into their business.
As for the menu items, Overrice’s all-in-one rice bowls feature a bed of aromatic golden basmati rice. Piled high atop are fresh produce that one might find at any sunny local farmer’s market, from bright-red diced tomatoes to crunchy shredded lettuce.
Choose from 3 options: the Chicken Bowl ($12.70) with oven-grilled chicken, the Falafel Bowl ($12.40) or Pulled Beef Bowl ($13.70). Topped with a drizzle of creamy white yoghurt sauce (reminiscent of hummus) and freshly-baked pita bread, all the elements of the bowl are flavourful without overwhelming each other. As a whole, their bowls are just perfect.
The painstaking R&D process
Azhar took charge of coming up with a recipe for the falafel balls. In this process, he prepared close to 100 batches to attain a perfectly crunchy exterior with earthy flavours within. The key? Soaking the chickpeas overnight. This process, though tedious, yields the best texture.
In the morning, the chickpeas are dried, blended, and mixed with herbs and spices. After this, the mixture is rolled into balls and are deep-fried only when an order comes in. This plant-based option is a must-have!
Zuhilmi’s chicken recipe calls for chicken thigh to be grilled in the oven till lightly charred. At the restaurant, two batches are cooked every day to make sure it stays fresh for each service. Thanks to its marinade of 9 different spices, the meat has a pleasant smoky char with depth to its flavours! The contrast in texture between the tender juicy thigh and crunchy fried bits is also welcome.
The master of Overrice’s pulled beef, Shaun, developed it from his own family’s recipe. The beef is marinated for a good 48 hours before being slow-cooked with Indian spices, Mexican chipotle peppers, and adobo sauce. In Hakim’s words, this crowd-favourite is like “warm kisses of chilli”. Definitely hits the right balance between sweet and spicy!
With his devotion to all things tasty, Hakim took charge of the must-have red sauce. An amalgamation of his mother’s O.G. sambal recipe with even more aromatic goodness, it’s a tantalising blend of chilli peppers, onion, garlic, ginger, and tamarind. The version at Overrice is the 10th, borne after rounds of R&D and lots of quality time with his mom. Its taste certainly reflects the sheer amount of effort behind it. Prepared daily by hand, the sauce is spicy, addictive, and everything you could ever ask for.
Trying out Overrice for the first time? Have a mix of the spicy red sauce and tangy white sauce together for a perfect accompaniment, just as Mr Big is to Carrie, or When Harry Met Sally!
Speaking about their dynamics as a team, Hakim explains: “It is not all about all work, it is more than that,” as he looks on with respect and admiration at his mates.
We have this affinity with each other. We got closer… we are like brothers. A family.
Hakim Abdullah, one of the four owners of Overrice.
At this, they nodded in agreement and chuckled. Perhaps, it’s at how their lives are now intertwined and how they’ve created a close-knitted brotherhood during this journey. There is no denying the sincere rapport they have with each other. And their demeanour definitely translates to the friendly, casual, and youthful ambience at Overrice, always buzzing with life in the aptly-hipster Arab street.
The pandemic might have brought us to a standstill and made traveling an impossibility. But through the hands of Azhar, Zuhilmi, Shaun and Hakim, their strong bond of fellowship and a tenacious trust in each other, they’ve brought a real piece of The Big Apple to local shores.
There are many lessons we can learn from the four of them. A crisis can represent danger, but it can be a window of opportunity too. With their energy and determination, they have taken a brave leap to venture into the new world of F&B. Overrice is certainly synonymous with gathering and basking in each others’ warmth while chatting over bowls that’ll warm your heart. They also deliver islandwide viaOddle Eats for hearty dinners-at-home with your loved ones.