Time To Award Singapore Hawkers Their Own “Stars”

Time To Award Singapore Hawkers Their Own “Stars”
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The post below was written in 2013. In retrospect, still pretty relevant. The Michelin Stars has descended in Singapore in 2016, and is not without its fair share of controversies.

Two humble Singapore stalls are actually awarded a star – Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodles at Crawford Lane and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.

Singaporeans criticise that the queues to their favourite stalls will get even longer, and on the flipside ALSO comment that their favourite hawker stalls did not make it for the Bib Gourmand.

Moral of story: You cannot please everyone. It is just a ‘game’ right? Anyway…

[Original Entry] There has been some food buzz online questioning if Singapore hawker food is Michelin star worthy? It started with HungryGoWhere asking “Are Singapore hawkers not Michelin-worthy?”, followed by food blogging guru ieatishootipost questioning “Can Singapore Hawkers take on Michelin starred chefs?”.

How should we even begin with this apples versus oranges comparison?

Let’s start with the Michelin guide, started by a tire company (nothing related with food), that anonymously awards restaurants on a three-star system based on food quality, mastery of technique, personality and consistency of the food.

Note that interior décor, table setting and service quality are not included in the rating criteria.


1-star Michelin restaurant Tim Ho Wan and its barbecued pork buns

The recent thrill that arrived to our sunny shores is the one-starred Michelin Tim Ho Wan Singapore, sending frenzied crowds to a 2-3 hour queue.

Frankly, only their barbecued buns gave that tasty feeling when eaten. The rest of the dishes were okay-good but not exactly exceptional.

So, if a shabby hole-in-the wall dim sum place in Mongkok can get one star, why not some of our Singapore food and restaurants? Some also seem to forget that even xiao long bao makers Din Tai Fung has one star for its branch at Tsim Sha Tsui.


3-star Michelin restaurant Lung King Heen serves humble wanton noodles.

The thing is Singapore is not one of the cities under the Michelin guide, unlike Hong Kong and Tokyo. We will NEVER get the Michelin star no matter how good our food is.

The guide will award establishments with at least two to three culinary specialties. Even if the Michelin guide does come to Singapore, it would be the usual suspects such as Andre, Waku Ghin, Jaan and Les Amis getting the stars. This is the rule of their game.

So where do our humble Singapore hawkers stand, some spending their lifetime perfecting their craft of coming up with that one dish?

While some of the more popular ones earn a tidy profit, most do not get much recognition. The skilful hawkers have few or no disciples they can pass their skills to; many choose to retire after rising costs of rental and labour force them to shut down.


Singapore chicken rice can also be ‘atas’.

There are some other problems I see that are against hawkers in Singapore going further ahead.

1) There is no island-wide reputable recognition for them. Yes, they may have won some “hawker king” award here and there through voting or judging, but there is no single award which stands out from all the rest. If Japan’s “Ramen King” can be national pride and glory, why not our very own “Bak Chor Mee King”?

2) There are celebrity chefs in Singapore, but not really celebrity hawkers. Can you name the chef who cooks the famous Tian Tian chicken rice?

3) Few or no restaurants are bringing Singapore street food to atas high-end status. If a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Hong Kong can serve ‘simple’ fare such as wanton noodles and fried rice, why aren’t many fine dining restaurants “posh-ing” our Singapore food up?

Perhaps it is time to upkeep, uphold and upmarket our Singapore hawkers – upkeep traditions, uphold our culinary heritage, and upmarket their status.

Why not award our own “Michelin Stars”? If a tire company can award stars, perhaps our very own Telcos or the Singapore Tourism Board can honour the best hawkers and food with a system. This is also an opportunity to discover hidden gems that are present just near our doorsteps.


Divine laksa with abalone, is this worthy of a star?

How many you know can fry up char kway tiao with brilliant wok hei, hand-make popiah with the perfect skin and shape, or flip prata like a pro? These are all legitimate skills to be recognised.

Singapore is always waiting for others to give her awards of any sorts, why not provide recognition for your own talents first?

If we claim we want to save our hawkers, but is all talk but no action, nothing is going to really happen.

So Dr Leslie Tay asked if a Michelin Star Chef like Gordon Ramsay can fry a plate of Char Kway Teow as good as Hillstreet’s Mr Ng? Well, even though Chef Ramsay has 14 stars under his belt, the answer is maybe (with no offence intended) no.

Other Related Entries
Time To Have A Top 100 Restaurants List For Singapore
29 Singapore Michelin Starred Restaurants & Stalls
Singapore Michelin Guide 2016

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Comments

  1. […] Daniel Food Dairy: Time To Award Singapore Hawkers Their Own “Michelin Stars” – The J Babies: Nanyang Old Coffee […]

  2. Sherman Koh : June 3, 2013 at 5:51 am

    is a michelin star that important? I've dine in lots of them and to be honest, many lose their soul to become a hen that lays rotten golden eggs all around to be sold to line the pockets of chef/owners with cash at the expense of quality. besides, this applies to all the michelin guide rated cities, I've tasted plenty of street food better than that of the starred restaurants. fact is, the red guide is catered not for the general population.

  3. I think a local guide would be useful and also serve as something for hawkers to aspire to. As with all guides of this nature, it would have to be used with discretion.

  4. George Chee : June 3, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    Agree with sg stars, but one of the criteria must be the hawker cooks personally. I think there’s more pride in the cooking than mere employees. Might attract more food tourists too!

  5. Tommy Leung : June 4, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    I think that it would be great to introduce our own Singapore “Signature guides”. Of course, naturally we can’t lump hawker centers with resturants, bistros etc as the cost of dining is obviously different. Maybe introducing a ” SINGAPORE BEST HAWKER STALLS” book every year? well we could follow the michelin guide style in taste, consistency, service and price etc

    • Yah, thats exactly what I am thinking about. And it should be supported by very established organisations/govt agencies.

  6. […] Ang of Daniel’s Food Diary asked on his blog: “So Dr Leslie Tay asked if a Michelin star chef like Gordon Ramsay can fry a plate of char […]

  7. George Chee : June 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Yes a Signatures Guide would be good!

  8. the ppl that are creating all the noise and stirring the pot from day 1 is dr leslie tay and all the bloggers and internet ppl – ie: ppl who cant cook but only eat…

    whatever suggestions you may have, what awards lah, what signature guide lahh, gordon ramsay challenge lah (wat a joke)..

    my question is: is this what the hawkers/chefs/cooks want?? anyone asked them their opinion on this??

    most hawkers, especially the more popular ones, dun really care abt awards, they dun really need it since they are already popular.. in fact, some has rejected awards and going on food tv shows since they can no longer cope with the popular demand… u must understand that food is the hawkers rice bowl… all they want is to make enough money and retire and quit what they are doing and enjoy life… the ppl what will support all these awards are the lousier hawkers since they need the marketing and publicity… then the awards will be self-defeating exercise…

    please do really think and ask the hawkers what they really want.. dont organise an award or challenge just because it is some blogger’s wet dream to see our humble hawkers come head-to-head with a celebrity chef..

  9. the first step in appreciating our humble hawkers is to give them our RESPECT… dats all..

  10. I can’t agree with dude. Sure we must respect the hawkers but if we don’t raise the profile and viability of hawker trade we will one day lose the along with all the good food.

  11. […] Ang of Daniel’s Food Diary asked on hisblog: “So Dr Leslie Tay asked if a Michelin star chef like Gordon Ramsay can fry a plate of char […]

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