A Michelin Star To Go: The story of Chan Hong Meng
Chinatown, Singapore. There are dozens of people cooking up a storm on every corner here. It’s a culinary voyage of the senses: Malay, Chinese, Tamil. It’s what every guidebook tells you about the vibrancy of the city state’s street food scene and a plate of food here will set you back about two Singapore dollars (£1.20).
In the midst of the panoply, though, one stall stands out, it’s difference marked by the queue snaking its way past neighbouring stalls. The line leads to the inconspicuous shop front of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle. This does exactly what it says on the tin. The owner, Chan Hong Meng, has run the place for 35 years and cooks Chinese style, in honour of the man who taught him how to work a kitchen.
Two dishes are served: Cantonese chicken in soy sauce or crispy barbecued pork and the simple ingenuity he brings to the first won over testers from the Michelin guide and in 2016, they awarded Chan a coveted star.
At the awards ceremony, Chan, who initially thought the call from the guide was a prank, stood on stage next to fêted French chef Joël Robuchon, who was picking up a third star for his nearby Resorts World Sentosa outlet where dinner starts at 500 Singapore dollars.
So has the fame changed Chan? Not a bit of it. He’s still in the kitchen 17 hours a day with his two assistants, cooking 180 chickens (30 more than before the award). The queues may be longer but Chan Hong Meng is still serene in his apron, working wonders with his knife at the stall in a corner of Singapore’s biggest food court.