Two hawker stalls in Singapore made history last month when they were awarded one Michelin star each by the Michelin Guide, a first for street food stalls all over the world
On 21 July, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle became the first Michelin-starred hawker food stalls in the world when they were officially recognised by the Singapore Michelin Guide at the 2016 Michelin Guide Singapore Gala Dinner cum Awards Ceremony.
Don't worry about having to pay Michelin star prices for the food though, a plate of chicken rice at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle starts from S$2.00 (RM6.03), while a bowl of minced meat noodles from Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle starts from S$4.00 (RM12.07).
The Michelin Guide is akin to the Oscar in the culinary world, as it is regarded as the world's foremost authority in culinary merit. The Guide awards Michelin stars - the best known and highly respected restaurant rating - to restaurants all over the world, with the maximum three being the ultimate accolade.
In a recent interview with Michelin Guide Singapore, Chan Hon Meng - chef and owner of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle - revealed that he was actually born in Ipoh, Perak!
"I grew up in a village. My parents were farmers; they reared pigs, ducks and grew their own crops," he recounted.
Chan, who has been a chef for 30 years, dropped out of school when he was 15. He soon apprenticed with a chef from Hong Kong, whose origin inspired the dishes that propelled him to the spotlight in the culinary world.
"After I left school and started working, my first choice was to be a chef," he said.
"In this environment, I had to help with the preparation of dishes since I was young, so I have a special interest and sensitivity when it comes to food, and a keen understanding," he added.
When he first got an invite to the gala dinner, Chan initially thought it was a joke as Michelin stars have always been synonymous with fine dining establishments. As he himself put it, "Why would Michelin come to my stall?"
Chan even approached a Michelin Guide representative, who told him that the invite was indeed real.
"I said, 'I've never heard of Michelin inspectors visiting a street stall. Can a hawker even be nominated?," said Chan, recounting his conversation with the representative.
"He said, 'We only judge based on the food, not on the venue.'"
His advice for fellow chefs, regardless of where they ply their trade, is this:
"Whether you're a restaurant chef or hawker, I hope that every chef will put in their best effort as if he [the Michelin inspector) is tasting your food at every moment."
"Only then will your food display passion. With food, you can never stop learning. I believe it's the skill of a chef that makes his food outstanding," Chan added.