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In July 2016, Michelin shocked the culinary world when they awarded two coveted Michelin stars to hawker vendors.
Hawker Chan Singapore (then known as Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle) and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle in Singapore.
This was the first time in Michelin history that Asian street stalls were awarded the culinary honor.
While in Singapore, we made it a point to find out how these popular food stalls, known for their relatively cheap meals, got awarded one of the most prestigious honors for restaurants worldwide.
Read on for our Hawker Chan review and learn what it’s like to eat the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world.
Hawker Chan – World’s First Michelin Star Hawker
Hawker centers are at the core of the Singapore food culture. These open-air food centers are where Singaporeans connect over local, everyday, affordable meals.
Michelin stars typically honor fine dining and expensive restaurants. According to the Michelin guide, restaurants may receive:
- one star for “high-quality cooking, worth a stop”
- two stars for “excellent cooking, worth a detour”
- three stars for “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”
So when Chef Chan Hon Meng won the first street-food Michelin star in 2016, his stall, Hawker Chan, was suddenly famous for offering “the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world.”
Michelin awarded Chef Chan one star, and that was plenty to skyrocket him into instant fame.
Unfortunately, Hawker Chan lost its Michelin star in 2021. Some patrons felt the quality of the food slipped after Chan opened several additional establishments.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: To taste the diversity of Singapore food, consider taking a food tour. Read our guide to 7 Of The Best Food Tours in Singapore You Want To Try
Hawker Chan Singapore Locations
The food stall is still located at its original location in the Chinatown Food Complex and it is still extremely popular.
After winning the Michelin star, owner and chef Chan Hon Meng opened a new restaurant in the core of Chinatown called Liao Fan Hawker Chan.
Opened in November 2016 to meet the growing demand, the restaurant serves the same menu including the award-winning Cantonese-style soya sauce chicken rice and a few new items.
Today, Hawker Chan has several locations across Asia and the Middle East.
In addition to Singapore, chef Chan Hon Meng has locations in Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, China, Malaysia, Australia, Kazakhstan, and United Arab Emirates.
Hawker Chan Opening Hours
The opening hours vary per location refers to each location for the
Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle
Address Original Location: 335 Smith St, #02-126, Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, Singapore
Hours: Open Monday – Saturday, 10:30 am – 3:30 pm; closed Sunday
Address Second Location: 78 Smith St, Singapore
Hours: Open daily, 10:30 am – 8:00 pm
Prices: Main dishes priced between S$7-10 (approx. $5.25 – $7.50 USD)
Hawker Chan Menu
Hawker Chan’s signature dish is the soya sauce chicken rice.
According to Michael Ellis, International Director of Michelin Guides,
“The chef uses a Hong Kong recipe that he was taught 35 years ago. He marinates his chicken in soy sauce, roasts it, chops it, cooks the rice with chicken fat and then he serves it. It’s something that sounds very simple, but I think in the world of Michelin, the ability to create sublime products from simple things is a great form of art.”
They also serve many more delicious and affordable meals such as roasted pork noodles, char siew rice, and pork rib hor fun.
Our Experience At Michelin Star Hawker Chan
The long-awaited day came and we set off to Hawker Chan, eager to enjoy good food at the cheapest Michelin-star restaurant.
Prior to this, our experience eating at Michelin-starred restaurants involved luxurious decor, outstanding service, and hefty checks.
We were curious to discover the Michelin star experience at a hawker stall with a big reputation.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Learn to make some of the best Singapore food in a cooking class. See The Best Cooking Classes In Singapore: 6 Top Cookery Classes for 2022
Hawker Chan Restaurant Environment
All the reviews we had read talked about the long queue and wait times. We went fully prepared to wait for as long as it would take to taste the award-winning Soya Sauce Chicken Rice dish.
When we got there, we were pleasantly surprised to find no wait. We walked straight up to the counter to order our meal.
We then took our seats on the ground level of the two-story restaurant. Adorning the walls were reviews of Hawker Chan Singapore published in different international press journals.
While casual and comfortable, the place felt devoid of the warmth typically found at a Singapore hawker center.
However, in keeping with Michelin’s standards, the restaurant was impeccable with a tasteful design and decor.
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Hawker Chan Food
After waiting for only about 20 minutes, our order was ready and we picked it up at the counter.
Our expectations were high and we were itching to taste what makes this particular chicken rice dish worthy of a Michelin star.
At first sight, this seemingly simple dish won us over. The glistening chicken and the steaming white rice topped with the famous soya sauce sat next to each other as the perfect pair.
To complete the union, a side of soya beans/peanuts was served. A dipping sauce of freshly minced red chili and garlic was also provided.
The succulent chicken and rice hit us with an explosion of tastes and textures. The chicken, moist and juicy with crispy skin, fell apart as soon as we poked our forks into it.
The soya sauce drenched over the rice had sweet and salty flavors providing a nice contrast to the chicken.
Upon reflection, we couldn’t shake off the feeling that we expected a little bit more.
This was a genuinely good meal and the flavors worked in harmony, but we were never quite able to answer the elusive question “what makes it Michelin star-worthy over all the other delicious chicken rice vendors?”
READ MORE: Top 15 Authentic Food in Singapore (and 20+ Restaurants To Try Them)
Hawker Chan Price
When the two Singapore hawkers got their Michelin stars, both chefs said they would not raise prices but warned that the queue at their stalls could get longer.
With an increased number of locals and tourists, they expected the wait to increase from about 30 – 45 minutes to 2 -3 hours for a plate.
In addition to eating the meal, we were curious about the pricing. Prior to the Michelin star, Hawker Chan’s chicken rice was priced at S$2.00 (approx. $1.50 USD).
At the restaurant, we paid S$3.80 per meal for a total of S$7.60 (approx. $5.54 USD) for two.
While not a huge increase for the comfort of spacious seating and air conditioning, it was an increase nevertheless.
Regardless, it is still a great deal because there is nowhere else in the world you can get a one-star Michelin meal for this price.
And, of course, no restaurant can keep its prices the same forever. In 2023, the soya sauce chicken rice at Hawker Chan costs S$7.00 (approx. $5.29 USD).
If you want to skip the lines at Hawker Chan, we recommend going during the off hours in the middle of the afternoon. We went at about 4:00 pm the afternoon and had no problem getting seated.
READ MORE: Singapore Food Culture: 10 Surprising Facts You Need to Know About Singapore
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What Singaporeans Think of the Michelin Star Hawker Vendors
When the Michelin guide awarded one star to the two now-famous hawker stalls, it created a mini storm in the Singapore food local scene.
Beyond the surprise, it seemed like Singaporeans had mixed feelings about this recognition.
We spoke with many local Singaporeans, from teachers, our Airbnb host, business owners, and Uber drivers, and everyone had an opinion.
Overall, the locals we spoke with were very proud of the success of the hawker stalls and the international recognition.
Waiting in line for up to 45 minutes and beyond for a plate of delicious food is something locals do with pleasure and anticipation.
However, some locals thought the honored stalls were overrated.
For them, the Michelin awards did not change their opinion of their favorite hawker vendors in Singapore.
They all easily rattled off names of other hawker stalls they thought had better versions of the same dish.
After all, there are 104 hawker centers and a total of 5,800 food stalls to choose from in Singapore.
RELATED: The 10 Best Hawker Centers in Singapore And What to Eat
What Does The Michelin Star Recognition Mean for Singapore Hawker Stalls
How does this success influence the 10,000+ hawker stalls in Singapore and the future ones?
From street hawking in the 1800s to today, hawker stalls are an important part of Singaporean history and tradition.
In our conversations with locals, we learned that many young Singaporeans prefer to look for better-paying jobs and working conditions.
And, at the same time, many long-standing hawker owners were older and would be retiring in the upcoming years.
Fortunately, as we learned, there is a new generation of “hawkerpreneurs” emerging.
These young hawker operators are making the choice to follow their passions and preserve the local food culture.
For them, the Michelin award is really a message of hope that they can make it big on the international stage.
In 2020, Singapore’s hawker culture was added to the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
This increased recognition, we believe, can only propel the success of hawker vendors in Singapore.
Hawker centers are at the core of Singaporean cuisine. The Singapore Michelin star award and international recognition are truly a tribute to such a rich culinary culture.
Whether you’ve eaten at a Singapore Michelin star restaurant or not, a trip to Hawker Chan Singapore is worth the experience.
Leave all your expectations behind about Michelin restaurants and ease into the hawker stall version.
However, do keep in mind that Singapore has a diversity of unique flavors and authentic dishes. Don’t disregard the other local dishes and diverse food choices you’ll find at the hawker centers.
Have you eaten at Hawker Chan Singapore or other Michelin-starred restaurants before? Please let us know your experience in the comments below.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
Find out more about Authentic Food Quest
54 Comments on “Hawker Chan Review: What It’s Like to Eat at the First Hawker Michelin Star Restaurant”
It’s great that Michelin has moved into affordable food! What a huge honour for these two Singaporean establishments. I enjoyed reading about your visit and will hope to check out Hawker Chan on my next visit. I believe Michelin has produced an overview of street food in Hong Kong and Macau and the big news on our streets is the whisper that Michelin is coming to Bangkok. Will watch with interest!
Oh really, Michelin coming to Bangkok…please do keep us posted!! So glad you enjoyed the article. The Singaporeans we met are honored by the recognition. Definitively worth checking out the next time you in Singapore. If you can, go at off hours like we did, and avoid the crowds 🙂 Cheers!
LOL on those prices guys! I am a street stall junkie in Thailand, and to think these guys got a Michelin rating is beyond awesome. Good on Michelin too for realizing amazing food despite its price and stall location. The Thai veggie I eat for 1 USD in Chiang Mai, 3 veggie dishes and rice, served fresh daily, is as tasty and delicious and fantastic as the dish I had at Tao, for $175 USD.
Right on and good on Michelin for recognizing amazing food. For us, at the Michelin restaurants we’ve eaten at, have been really good, even exceptional. It’s hard to compare that experience with the one at Hawker Chan. What remains consistent though is amazing high-quality food. Be sure to check it out on your trip to Singapore 🙂 Thanks, Ryan.
Lovely. I had heard of Chan too. It just goes on to show it is not always that Michelin would award stars for those expensive looking restaurants in an expensive address.
You are so right, good food at all prices levels deserve recognition from Michelin! Thanks, Nisha.
A Michelin star for street hawkers.. Wow! I never knew that could happen. Good food need not be expensive and I m really glad this is acknowledged by this gesture of Micheline. I wouldnt mind going all the way to Singapore to try out the award winning dishes at these food stalls
Agree completely, good food does not have to be expensive. The food in Singapore is amazing and a trip to Hawker Chan as well to the other centers is well worth the experience. If you have a chance to visit Singapore, we definitively say…go for the food!!
First off, that Soya Chicken Rice Dish looks mouth watering, the kind of meal that’s cooked to perfection and full of flavor. I had no Idea that a casual dining establishment could be considered Michelin Star, what a pleasant surprise. I’d love to try it to see what really sets it apart from the other hakwer vendors. I’ll be sure to seek this out the next time I’m in Singapore, the price is certainly right!
Thanks so much Heather for your comments. This is indeed a first for Michelin to award a Hawker Vendor, and rightly so. The food is incredible and definitively worth a trip to Singapore for 🙂 Do let us know what you think after you eat there 🙂
I love this! I had no idea that this happened! It’s the perfect foodquest then. I love that anyone can eat here. And good for Michelin for ranking based on the food, not just the atmosphere!
Could not agree more…it’s about time Michelin recognized all the non-traditionally schooled cooks who create amazing food. This was definitively an incredible departure for Michelin. If you find yourself in Singapore, it’s well worth the experience 🙂
I love that you approached this with such specificity and clarity! It’s amazing that the Hawker Stands won such notoriety! Wonderful too that they continue providing affordable and delicious (if underwhelming food.) I’ve never veered to visit a Michelin restaurant but sense I’m missing out.
Thank you so much, Elaine, for your wonderful feedback. The hawker center experience in Singapore is unlike any other local food experience. The food is amazing because vendors specialize in just one dish. You can taste the years of love and passion that go into it. If you’ve never been to Michelin restaurant, it is worth the culinary experience. Give it a shot, and better yet in Singapore, where the meal will cost only $5.00 🙂 Cheers!
Singapore is on my list so this will happen sometime in the future! What a crazy great price for awesome food!
You will love Singapore, Sherianne. The biggest piece of advice is to eat where the locals eat, at hawker centers. As you get closer to planning your trip, feel free to reach out for additional tips/resources. Don’t miss Hawker Chan 🙂
That chicken and rice dish looked so yummy! What a cool experience, and two dinners for $5, awesome!!
You are right Miranda, there is no where else in the world, where you can have a delicious Michelin dish for less than $5.00USD. A neat and delicious experience!!
Looks fabulous! I love when we are able to find a smaller restaurant that has amazing food (and almost always a better price). Did you go at a non peak hour (hence no waiting) or was it just lucky timing?
Hi Rachel, we timed our trip at non-peak hours to avoid the crowds…and it worked 🙂 We found that to be the best way to enjoy the full experience. A total gem and a delicious one too 🙂 Thanks
Whoa! Didn’t know that the hawker centres in Singapore have Michelin stars. That is so amazing. I love food in Singapore. Wouldn’t mind some pork noodles right now 😛
Michelin did create waves in the culinary world when they awarded the Michelin stars to hawker center vendors. Indeed the food in Singapore is amazing and totally worth the experience. Thanks Shruti, for stopping by.
Food is the biggest reason I want to visit Singapore. I’m wondering if Michelin will start awarding stars to other casual restaurants.
That’s great to hear Brianna, the food in Singapore and will be totally worth the experience. It will be interesting to see how Michelin evolves, as this is the first time in their history hawker vendors have been awarded stars. Who knows what the future will bring 🙂
I hadn’t heard that Michelin gave out stars to a food stall. It’ll be interesting to see if more are to come. I’ve heard great things about food in Singapore and your meal looks tasty. It’s great that you didn’t have to wait in line. I would have a hard time waiting in a line for 45-min at a food stall.
We are just as curious as well to see if any other hawker centers that will win awards this year. Regardless, recognizing this important and unique element of the Singapore food is amazing! We did wait 45 minutes one time for a dish, and it was so worth it. You’d be surprised at the diversity and quality of the cuisine. Worth the visit, Lara!!
I’m impressed that not only were they recognized by Michelin, but with stars instead of Bib Gourmand! I wonder if they increased the prices because of increased overhead with the new restaurant? Either way, that chicken looks delicious!
Truly a wonderful recognition and so happy for them. We did notice a slight price increase with Hawker Chang.This is mostly for the air conditioning and staff. Well worth the trip for the delicious soja chicken rice. Thanks Teresa
Oh my God, 7.60 SGD is so cheap for two people! I think I must go there when I visit Singapore. I am going to Penang next weekend. Do you have a tips to eat cheap there?
That’s great….you will love Penang. We’ll actually be writing about that soon. Two tips for you. Eat Char Kway Toew, one of our favorite stir fried dshes. And secondly, visit the only food museum in the world. It’s a wild and tasteful experience.
Well for this prices I wouldn’t complain and would love to put on my Bucketlist I ate at one of these “fancy” restaurants lol thanks for the tips
I love that there are Michelin-starred restaurants that are affordable to eat at! And I’m glad that the food held up to you dreams and expectations. There’s nothing worse than being let down by a plate of seemingly-delicious food!
A great experience to taste the local and legendary soja chicken in Singapore. Fortunately, it did not disappoint 🙂
That is wonderful. I would sure love to taste that chicken soya sauce!
yum!! I have never eaten at a Michelin restaurant before. Love seeing what you gals are eating on your adventures. 😉
Hi Melody, thanks for stopping by:) Eating at a Michelin starred restaurant is quite an experience. This one gets much better with the affordable prices. Absolutely worth the experience!!
I loved trying all the food in Singapore! These two stalls are going on my to eat list for the next time I’m in town. So do you think the rating made the meal better, or worse? That’s a lot of hype to live up to, but the price really can’t be beat!
Once a restaurant becomes Michelin rated, it becomes controversial. You are right though, you can’t beat the prices of the two in Singapore. Definitely check them out. Well worth the experience 🙂
I was able to try this and it was indeed incredible! I must say, most of the great foods here in Singapore are commonly found in hawkers centres.
Yay, you at at Hawker Chan’s as well. Yes, truly tasty and incredible. Did you have to wait in line? Totally love the different hawker centers in Singapore…it’s where all the action is. Lucky you for having access to the hawker centers, miss the food in Singapore, terribly! Thanks for stopping by.
I’ve actually been to a 1 star Michelin restaurant in Taiwan – I was blown away at how good the food is at such a low price! I have yet to try these Michelin restaurants in Singapore! As you noted, Hawker station is where it’s at!
You are right, the food at Michelin starred restaurants is quite fantastic, unfortunately it comes with a hefty price. Hawker Chan in Singapore is the best place to go for the world’s cheapest Michelin starred meal. Hopefully, you can visit soon!!
I heard about the amazing food in the hawker stalls from a former boyfriend who used to travel to Singapore for work. I always assumed he was exaggerating, but the soya chicken looks really tasty! I’m definitely putting this on my list when I visit Singapore.
Your ex-boyfriend was certainly not exaggerating about hakwer centers and the local food scene in Singapore. For sure a must experience for your next trip to the island. Be sure to explore the other hawker centers too, they are all unique with their own character. Let us know what you think after you go to Singapore 🙂 Cheers.
Never been to a Michelin restaurant, I was in London a couple of years ago, and there was no reservation available. I am a food lover, always looking for new places to eat, I will save this post!
The great thing about Hawker Chan in Singapore is that you don’t need to make reservations as you would with upscale restaurants. Simply go at about 4pmish or wait in line. For the world’s cheapest Michelin starred dish, this one is worth the experience 🙂 Thanks, Esther!
I love the Hawker Centres, I haven’t been to these two yet but already noted them. I do think that the Michelin-awards sometimes create mixed feelings among the locals. But I think it’s great that the stars are also awarded to restaurant which are not the typical upscale Western cuisine ones.
Agree, the Michelin stars do stir up emotions, though the one thing that is consistent is the celebration of hawker centers. Do indeed check them out the next time you are in Singapore. Appreciate your comments, Liz.
Claire and Rosemary, you ?? two ?? are ?? awesome. Not only is this topic A+, but you made me want that soya chicken rice dish so bad. Keep exploring awesome foods! Have you ever found any weird dishes including tea? Or weird/cool tea drinks?
Thanks so much Mel 🙂 And so glad you enjoyed this article. We appreciate it! Yes, the soja chicken rice is quite amazing and worth trying if your travels take you to Singapore. We did discover some unique drinks that we’ll be writing about shortly!! Thanks so much!
Love trying street food where ever we travel and have heard about the hawkers in Singapore and the Michelin star so this was an interesting read. I can’t imagine the star awarding team tried out every hawker in the city, did you find there’s a lot of jealousy among hawkers as a result of this?
It truly was a fascinating experience of enjoying the world’s cheapest Michelin Starred meal. Indeed, it must have been an interesting experience for the Michelin reviewers. In terms of jealousy, we didn’t really pick that up, instead, it was an overwhelming amount of pride for hawker centers and vendors in general. Cheers!
And whoever said good food has to be expensive? I’m happy a good quality hawker stand was awarded this coveted star, since they obviously have really good food. That chicken rice looks mouth-watering!
You are completely right….good food does not need to be expensive! The food is incredible, and worth a trip. Thanks Tami!