“Imagine a perfect world where fast food is good food. Where food is everywhere. … A place where everybody loves to eat and nearly everybody’s an expert on eating.”
Those are the words of bon vivant and raconteur Anthony Bourdain and he was talking about Singapore. He’s right, too. Singapore is a wonderland of food. One of Singapore’s greatest gifts to the culinary world is the Hawker Stall — little stalls assembled into food courts pepper the city. They’re all family-owned and operated (and usually have been for generations). They also typically focus on creating a single sublime dish and finding its perfect notes. And they’re cheap and fast.
For anyone who loves food, that’s sure to check a lot of boxes.
Last month, Michelin announced the new starred restaurants in Singapore at a gala with the country’s top chefs. At that event (and in the guide that the evening heralded), a hawker was awarded a Michelin Star for the first time. Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle was that hawker stall. This officially makes it the cheapest Michelin starred eatery in the world. A plate of Chef Chan Hon Meng’s chicken rice and noodle costs $1.50.
Chef Meng’s story is similar to almost every other hawker stall you’ll come across in Singapore — family run, perfect dishes, cheap and fast. Well, fast is relative to the line you have to wait in (which is sure to increase dramatically).
This will, hopefully, also be a boost for the hawker stall world. Recently hawkers have been at risk of closing largely due to a lack of people interested in starting up in the business, which is one of the hardest cooking jobs in the world. Michelin notes that “it’s not the venue, it’s the food we judge.” So, perhaps sitting on old plastic chairs in a noisy food court and eating a Michelin starred meal is just the tonic needed to reinvigorate the low-margin world of street food.
Interestingly, hawker stalls are in peril abroad just as they’ve grown popular here in the U.S. Bourdain and some of his compatriots in the food world have been working for years to bring a Singapore style hawker food court to Manhattan. Hopefully — with Michelin recognizing the brilliance in the simplicity of one of the world’s best street foods — that project will soon get fast tracked. That way we can enjoy the amazingness of hawker stalls on this side of the world. But don’t hold your breath on a plate of amazing soya chicken costing $1.50 in Manhattan.
To learn more, watch the incredible mini-doc, below: