Singapore’s Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle – the humble hawker stall now home to the world’s cheapest Michelin-star meal – was the only place you could try Chan Hon Meng’s iconic S$2 ($1.42) chicken rice dish.
Now, there are two.
Late last year the chef-owner partnered with Hersing Culinary to open Liao Fan Hawker Chan, a casual dine-in offshoot located meters away from his Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre-based stall in Singapore.
Meng created this quick-service restaurant to harness the sudden worldwide fame and, consequently, customer demand following his stall’s groundbreaking induction into Singapore’s inaugural Michelin Guide in July 2016.
“I didn’t know anything about the Michelin Guide, but I knew it was for a very ‘high’ type of food,” admits the Malaysian-born chef, who initially dismissed news of Michelin’s interest in his stall as a joke.
He has since undergone quite the learning curve of the guide’s impact on any given restaurant.
The new expansion seats 80 diners and still includes take-out service, which is a necessity: on Hawker Chan’s second soft-opening day, an ever-growing line of tourists and locals spilling out of the restaurant and onto the sidewalk almost mirrored that of the stall, where people wait for several hours to experience his famous fare.
“The customers here [at Hawker Chan] are a bit more demanding,” Meng tells CNN while seated in his new restaurant.
“Upstairs [at the stall], they will just stand there and wait. They are more patient.”
Hawker Chan’s menu is a duplicate of the stall, including the char siew noodles, pork rib hor fun and Meng’s legendary Cantonese-style soya sauce chicken rice.
Marked up price = more comfort
So what’s different about Hawker Chan?
For one, it’s an air-conditioned, up-to-date space unlike the stall’s spartan, often muggy food court location, and it has new dishes such as Thai-style tofu and wonton soup in addition to combo platter options.
The number of staff quadruples that of the hawker stall, which should surely help curb wait times.
You’ll also now find the 52-year old Michelin man himself cooking and overseeing the new restaurant, while occasionally checking in on the original stall, which his wife, Irene, helps manage.
There is a price to pay for the more comfortable dining experience, however: the SGD $2 chicken rice dish at the stall, for instance, is marked-up at SGD $3.80, which Meng explains is only to cover overhead expenses.
Still, each single-meal served at Hawker Chan will set you back less than US$4, a true value compared to other restaurants helmed by a chef with Michelin honors.
Will Hawker Chan bring Chan Hong Meng his second “star?” It didn’t happen in Singapore’s 2017 Michelin Guide, but there’s always the next year.
Just in case, Meng should keep his eyes peeled for a third venue.
Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle: Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre, 335 Smith St, Singapore
Hawker Chan: 78 Smith St, Singapore
Travis Levius is a globetrotting writer, editor and photographer for the likes of BBC Travel, Business Insider and Forbes Travel Guide. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his travel/inspiration blog MisterLevius.com.