Hawker Chan’s journey from a Singapore street stall to Michelin Star

Singaporean chef Hawker Chan on life and business after his rice and noodle stall received a Michelin star

July 12, 2023 04:37 pm | Updated July 13, 2023 01:14 am IST

Singaporean chef Hawker Chan

Singaporean chef Hawker Chan | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Michelin star restaurants immediately conjure up the image of opulent restaurants with fine dining and highly trained chefs. But in 2016, when Hawker Chan Hon Meng received a star for his stall at Chinatown Complex Food Centre in Singapore, it changed his fate and encouraged hawkers like him across the world to aim high.

“When I was informed that my stall was a part of the Michelin guide, I didn’t understand what it meant. The next day, the line by the stall was very long and I knew immediately I had to change the way we functioned to cater to all the customers,” says Chef Chan, who was recently in Chennai at The Leela Palace for a Singaporean street food festival.

At the Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle stall, Soya Sauce Chicken rice is the signature. Chef Chan got the original recipe to thesticky soya sauce when he trained under a chef from Hong Kong. “As a child I lived on a farm in Malaysia and the way we used the vegetables, rice and chicken we had always inspired me. I also loved to eat different flavours. At 15 years, I realised that my future was in cooking, moved to Singapore and trained under a chef from Hong Kong. He had the recipe for the soya sauce chicken and I made it my own,” he adds. 

Although the original recipe was what he learnt as a teenager, he developed a new recipe with influences and ingredients from Malaysia and Singapore when he set-up his stall in 2009. ”The Hong Kong recipe has a darker colour and a different flavour but the technique is similar,” he mentions.

Chef Chan Hon Meng of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, awarded one Michelin star in 2016

Chef Chan Hon Meng of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, awarded one Michelin star in 2016 | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

After the addition to the Michelin guide, Chef Chan understood the demand and collaborated with Singapore-based Hersing corporation Ltd to expand his business. Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle restaurant now has 12 outlets across seven countries. “It is crucial for us to maintain the taste because that is what sets us apart from the others. So we ship our sauces across the globe.” He adds that the recipe is tested for three months after setting up in a new country to see if it needs to be made sweeter or if the proportions of spices used needs to be changed.

“Singapore food has a lot of Indian influences. Naan is our Roti Prata so it is natural that my dish also has Indian notes. Especially with the spices — I use star anise in my recipe which makes a lot of difference.”

In 2021 his eatery lost the Michelin star but retained its Bib Gourmand position in the Singapore Michelin guide ceremony 2023 held earlier this month. 

Chef Chan at Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle restaurant

Chef Chan at Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle restaurant | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

But Chef Chan is still on his path to popularise his recipe and become a giant like the popular fried chicken brand Kentucky Fried Chicken. “I want to take the soya sauce chicken rice and as a result Singapore cuisine across the globe. ”

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