SINGAPORE: Two hawker stalls - Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle at Crawford Lane and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle in Chinatown were awarded a Michelin star each on Thursday (Jul 21).
This is the first time in Michelin history that Asian street stalls have been awarded the coveted star.
“It signifies that these hawkers have managed to hit the ball out of the park,” said Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin Guides, at an awards ceremony at Resorts World Sentosa. “As they say in baseball, in terms of the quality of the ingredients, in terms of the flavours, in terms of the cooking techniques, in terms of just the general emotions, that they are able to put in their dishes. And that is something that I think is really unique to Singapore.”
Hill Street Tai Hwa Bak Chor Mee. (Photo: Nisha Karyn)
For the first time, Australian cuisine got a Michelin star as well, through Osia Restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa. Restaurant Joel Robuchon, also at Resorts World Sentosa, was the only eatery in Singapore awarded three Michelin stars this year.
According to the guide, one star refers to restaurants that offer “high-quality cooking, worth a stop”, two stars refer to those that offer “excellent cooking, worth a detour”, and three stars, which is their highest award, refers to “exceptional cooking, worth a special journey.”
(Photo: Restaurant Joel Robuchon's website)
Six other restaurants - including Odette, Les Amis and Andre - were awarded two Michelin stars.
A dish from Odette, a modern French restaurant at National Gallery Singapore. (Photo: Odette/Facebook)
Singapore is the first Southeast Asian country - and the fourth Asian territory - to be rated by the Michelin Guide.
Restaurants were judged based on five criteria:
- Quality of products
- Mastery of flavour and cooking techniques
- The personality of the chef in his cuisine
- Value for money
- Consistency between visits
Ahead of the awards ceremony, the Singapore Michelin Guide awarded a "Bib Gourmand" to 34 hawker stalls and eateries around the island on Jul 14. The Bib Gourmand is given to food establishments that offer a high-quality menu at a reasonable price, which in Singapore means a maximum of S$45.
HAWKERS NOT RAISING PRICES
The two hawkers who got Michelin stars expressed happiness and surprise at their inclusion in the guide, which lists the best restaurants and hotels in 28 countries.
“I’ve heard of the Michelin guide but I never thought they’d come to the hawker centres and give us such an honour," said Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle’s Chan Hong Meng.
"I’m very thankful to them because us chefs are just like university students hoping to be awarded a degree.”
On his approach to food, Mr Chan said: “My thoughts are that you must treat your customers like your relatives, and they’re your judges. Or we must be like doctors, providing healing for their stomachs and health.”
He has a 10-year-old daughter, but is not sure she will take over from him in the food business. “The hours are quite long, and you must suffer to succeed. He added that he has considered automating his food processes.
Meanwhile, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle’s Tang Chay Seng was modest when asked about his recipe for success. “There is no secret,” he said. “The ingredients just need to be fresh.”
Both hawkers added that they expect queues at their stalls to get longer. "Currently the queue is about 30 to 45 minutes … if it gets any longer people won’t want to wait anymore,” said Mr Tang.
“Customers usually wait about 45 minutes to an hour. But I think now, they’ll probably have to wait at least one and a half to two hours,” added Mr Chan. “I don’t know what tomorrow will be like!”
Despite the accolade, both men said prices would not be raised for now.