There’s a certain charm in huddling over round tables and sweating it out while tucking into a hearty plate of chicken rice. But for those who enjoy their comforts, the opening of Hawker Chan is a great way to enjoy the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred dish with the AC on full blast.
It’s near-impossible to miss the restaurant on 78 Smith Street, with its bright red and blue banners loudly declaring its star status. Local hawker Chan Hon Meng spoke to three different F&B companies before deciding to partner Hersing Culinary, the same company that has a reputation for bringing in Michelin-starred eateries like ramen chain Tsuta and dim sum chain Tim Ho Wan.
Hawker Chan might be a million-dollar set up, but prices here remain affordable. A plate of Chan’s soy-braised chicken rice costs S$3.80, less than a dollar up from the original. It’s still a near two-hour wait, though at least there’s no chance of Hawker Chan selling out now – unlike the stall at Chinatown Complex where only 180 chickens are prepared and sold, a larger space and more hands on deck means Chan is no longer limited to how much he can sell.
Chan uses only Malaysian and Indonesian chickens here that are braised in his mother sauce made from 15 different types of spices and herbs for two hours. The succulent meat and aromatic oily skin are best savoured with plain white rice, though there’s also a choice of noodles or hor fun (a new addition). Chan has added desserts like bean curd pudding and more vegetables on the menu too, such as soya beansprouts and Thai-style tofu “to balance out all the meat”. Ordering is all very brisk and efficient now, with the installation of an automated machine: Pick your mains, sides and drinks, then collect your food when the buzzer sounds.
Hawker Chan is riding the Michelin buzz, and he surely deserves it after eight years of hard work. We still prefer sweating it out in a crowded complex while tucking into our chicken rice (call us old-school romantics that way) but the food here has a slight edge – the sweet taste of this 51-year-old’s victory.
78 Smith Street