Chan Hong Meng

A Michelin Star To Go: The story of Chan Hong Meng

Words: Robert Sperl

For 35 years Chan Hong Meng ran a popular but unheralded food stall in Singapore. Then he got a call from the world’s most famous restaurant guide.

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 ($1.40).

In the midst of the panoply, though, one stall stands out, its difference marked by the line snaking its way past neighboring stalls. The line leads to the inconspicuous shop front of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, where the owner, Chan Hong Meng, has been in place for 35 years and cooks Chinese style, in honor of the man who taught him how to work a kitchen. 

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Two dishes are served: Cantonese chicken in soy sauce and crispy barbecued pork. The simple ingenuity Chan brings to the first won-over testers from the Michelin guide. In 2016, they awarded him 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. 

singapore, street food

So has the fame changed Chan? Not one bit. 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.

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