The story behind Malaysia-born hawker’s Michelin star (VIDEO)

Hawker Chan Hon Meng, who earned a Michelin star for his soya sauce chicken rice and noodle, poses for the media outside his stall at a food market in Singapore, July 22, 2016. ― Reuters pic
Hawker Chan Hon Meng, who earned a Michelin star for his soya sauce chicken rice and noodle, poses for the media outside his stall at a food market in Singapore, July 22, 2016. ― Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 ― Ipoh-born hawker Chan Hon Meng never finished school, yet he felt like he graduated in life when his food stall in Singapore was awarded a Michelin star, the world’s first hawker stall to receive one.

Chan's Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle in Chinatown, Singapore, was presented the prestigious culinary award, often linked to fine dining establishments, last month along with another Singaporean hawker, making his stall one of the cheapest Michelin eats in the world with meals from US$1.50 (RM4).

“I stopped going to school at the age of fifteen because of this environment. I had to help with the preparations of dishes from young,” Chan said in an interview with Michelin Guide Singapore released yesterday.

“I have a special interest and sensitivity when it comes to food. For us chefs, we long for the day we are recognised internationally. It is a form of honour as if we are in university and now we are graduating,” the 51-year-old added.

Chan, who has been in the line for 35 years, said he has been a hawker all along, but had learned how to cook from a Hong Kong chef at a restaurant, hence the name “Hong Kong Soya Sauce Noodle” for his dish.

Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle from Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle stall. — TODAY pic
Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle from Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle stall. — TODAY pic

Chan said he was rather shocked by his stall being selected, but was told by the Michelin representatives that judgment was passed not on the location of the food outlet, but the quality of the food.

“The Michelin representative said we only judge based on food not venue,” Chan said.

He also hoped that with him and another Singaporean hawker stall, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, winning a Michelin star each, it would help elevate the world’s perception on cheap eats and promote the cuisine around the world.

Singaporean broadcaster Channel News Asia reported last month that a day after both hawker stalls received the award on July 21, there were long queues even before the stalls opened.

Chan's stall in particular received an outpour of customers, with some from overseas, even before the shutters were up at 9am.

The news outlet quoted a tourist only known as Ms Antonia from the United Kingdom braving the line for an hour as she wanted to try out Chan's stall.

 “We haven’t tried it before and it’s our second day here in Singapore. I Googled what to eat in Singapore and read about the Michelin award-winning food.

“It’s the closest to where we are so we just jumped right in the queue. I didn’t expect it to be so long. I just hope it’s worth it. I‘m sure it will be,” she was reported as saying.