Singaporean chef Chan Hon Meng is in Australia for the first time, and he is confounded by some of our food. When I ask his interpreter whether he has eaten anything that has dazzled his tastebuds since he landed in Sydney two days ago, the 51-year-old becomes animated.
“He is surprised that all the food is raw,” the interpreter says. “Salads … he doesn’t understand salads. And he was offered an oyster last night and he wouldn’t eat it because it’s raw … we ended up going and eating Indian food because that was more like the hawker style he’s used to.”
Chan, who cooks at an unassuming street food stand in Singapore, surprised many people — himself included — by becoming something of a rock star of the global culinary scene last year. The signature dish he serves up at his hawker stand, Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, was awarded a coveted Michelin star. The stars are usually awarded to the most up-market restaurants in the world. Chan’s dish costs a mere $2.
“When I received the invitation [to the Michelin awards] I was uncertain,” Chan recalled in a video following the announcement. “I asked them, ‘Are you joking? Why would Michelin come to my stall?’” Chan says.
“I asked their representative. He said, ‘Yes, it’s true’. I said, ‘I’ve never heard of Michelin inspectors visiting a street stall. Can even a hawker be nominated?’”
As a result, people now queue at his stall for up to three hours to get their hands on “the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world”.
He has temporarily handed over the reigns of his stall this week to travel to Sydney and take part in the Tiger STREATS event, which is described as a “street meets fine dining” culinary collaboration.
From November 24-26 Chef Chan Hon Meng will work with Guillaume Galliot, the chef of two Michelin star restaurant The Tasting Room in Macua, to present a menu that showcases the chefs’ contrasting cuisines (Tiger Beer ran an online competition where people could win a place at the dinner).
It’s the first time Chef Chan Hon Meng has attempted to recreate his signature dish in another country.
He developed the recipe for his tender, soya sauce-braised chicken over the course of his 30-year career as a cook — he originally learned the recipe by a Hong Kong chef who only showed him the basics, so he had to develop his own version of the recipe, tweaking it along the way.
Now he works 17 hours a day to serve up 200 plates of his chicken and says the key is to use the soya sauce to create the flavour, without making it too salty. There’s also a secret Chinese herb involved. Refreshingly Chan has not hiked the price of the dish since winning the Michelin star, despite increased interest from international visitors (though a second quick-service restaurant has since opened in Singapore to cope with demand).
He is excited about recreating the recipe in a foreign country, though says that our soya sauce isn’t quite up to scratch, and our chickens are slightly different to those back home. Regardless, he wonders whether his humble chicken dish could start popping up around the globe.
“If KFC is eaten world wide, maybe soya chicken can be too,” he muses.
Online Source: News.com.au.