Searching for the Michelin Man.
Update (9 September 2021): The original Hawker Chan stall at 335 Smith Street has lost its coveted one Michelin Star (now Michelin Plate). Not surprising though as its consistency has dropped in recent times, perhaps due to rapid expansion. Personally, I’ve seen Chef Chan working at various locations away from 78 Smith Street, which serves both Chinatown stall. I hope he will work doubly hard to improve the stall’s food quality.
What is the first thing that crosses your mind when you see the Michelin Man?
It used to be tires for me, but nowadays it’s always about food. Well, this is partly thanks to Michelin Guide’srapid expansion in Asia (now across nine cities / regions) over the past few years.
Not long after the guide’s arrival to Singapore in 2016, I became obsessed with it.
I would go all the way out to dine at one of the food establishments listed in the Michelin Guide. I would even look for one when I travel abroad.
There are a few common misconceptions about the Michelin Guide:
- It will burn a hole in your pocket to dine at a Michelin-starred food establishment;
- Michelin-starred meal taste the same across restaurant chains; and
- Michelin inspectors are all Westerners; they have no clue about Asian food.
The best example to debunk these misconceptions is none other than Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle located in Chinatown, Singapore, helmed by Ipoh-born Chef Chan Hon Meng (watch video: The Story of Chan Hon Meng). It is the home to the ‘World’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal’.
Here, you can get the infamous Soya Sauce Chicken Rice at S$2. That’s a steal for a food establishment recommended by the Michelin Guide.
My personal favourite is the Char Siu (barbecued pork) noodle. The former has a perfect ratio of melt-in-your-mouth fat, charred parts, and lean meat, while the latter is cooked to perfection (al dente), springy and drenched in soya sauce with the right quantum of saltiness. Make sure that you try this when you are there (I noticed some diners only sample the Soya Sauce Chicken Rice).
On the other hand, the Soya Sauce Chicken is tender regardless of cut and glazed with maltose syrup.
Some might beg to differ. My advice: go to the original stall at Block 335 Hawker Centre, Smith Street, #02-126 as Michelin rating is awarded to a specific outlet. This is the outlet that Michelin Guide inspectors visited (anonymously Michelin claimed).
If queuing is not your thing (the wait could be easily around 30 to 60 minutes), go to the one across the street. This branch was also inspected; it was awarded a Bib Gourmand (“the Bib Gourmand list recognises restaurants and street food establishments offering quality cuisines at a maximum price of S$45”). Chef Chan is usually at this outlet from morning to around noon.
So yes, for restaurant chains, not every branch is audited by inspectors.
I’d also seen comments that the foodhere is overrated because it doesn’t have the typical Chicken Rice taste. I respect their view as food is a subjective matter, but these people were obviously confusing Soya Sauce Chicken Rice – a Cantonese dish -with Hainanese Chicken Rice – a fast food that can be found everywhere in Malaysia, Singapore and the rest of South East Asia.
Don’t be that person. Be humble and don’t stop learning about food.
As Chef Chan Hon Meng once said, “With food, one can never stop learning. In this world, there is no cuisine that is superior to another – there are only outstanding chefs.”
If you were to browse the Asian guides, you’d noticed there are plenty of Michelin-starred Cantonese food establishments; they have been in Hong Kong since 2009. There are Asian based food inspectors out there and they are well versed in Cantonese food.
I’ll share more on Michelin-starred Cantonese food establishments on another post.
Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle
Address: 335 Smith St, Stall #02-126, Singapore 050335
Opening hours: Daily 10:30am until sold out.
Remarks: Rated one Michelin Star.
Liao Fan Hawker Chan
Address: 78 Smith Street, Singapore 058972
Opening hours: Daily 10:30am to 8:30pm (closed on Wednesday).
Remarks: Rated Michelin Bib Gourmand.