SINGAPORE -- On the second floor of a shopping complex that has seen better days in Chinatown, a nondescript food stall has become an overnight sensation after it received a star from the Michelin Guide in July.
Offering the world's cheapest Michelin-starred meal starting at 2 Singapore dollars ($1.50), the stall is attracting long queues of people every day. The much-coveted Michelin stars are normally awarded to restaurants run by high-profile chefs, serving meals that typically cost more than $100 per person.
TheHong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle was among two food stalls to receive a star at the launch of Michelin's first Singapore restaurant guide. The stall was already well-known among locals, but its popularity shot up after the award: The waiting time to buy a plate of chicken rice used to be around half an hour, but now, some patrons queue for over 2 hours.
"The chicken is much more tender than other stalls', and the sauce tastes great. It was definitely worth the wait," said a 21-year-old local university student who waited two hours before he could finally sit down to savor his meal. Together with another friend, he devoured three portions in no time.
Overseas media attention has brought even more devotees. A German chef in his thirties arrived at the stall more than an hour before it opened, eager to try out the famed dish.
While business is great, shop owner Chan Hon Meng said it also meant more hours of work. He now wakes two hours earlier, at 3-4 a.m. to prepare for the day's cooking. But despite the rising costs of ingredients and the stall's newfound fame, Chan said he did not plan to increase prices for now.
Food stalls like Chan's make up a large part of the food culture in Singapore, where eating out in a full-service restaurant can be costly. A few minutes' walk from Chan's food stall, a bowl of Japanese ramen costs S$15 to S$20.
Food courts, housing a myriad of stalls selling different cuisines and dishes, are ubiquitous in Singapore and a staple for locals who want quick, convenient meals.
Now that the revered Michelin Guide has turned its attention to Singapore's hawker stalls, the local street food culture is set to take center stage in the global culinary scene.