Now that the Michelin Guide has started ranking restaurants in Singapore, a hawker stall (food stand) with plates costing as little as $2 SGD (about $1.50 USD) has taken over the title of “World’s Cheapest Michelin-Starred Restaurant.” It’s partnered with a company to open locations around the world.
Singapore is known for its complexes of street food—or “hawker”—stalls, offering dishes that are both delicious and inexpensive. It might’ve been expected that the Michelin Guide, which ordinarily focuses on higher-end fare, would have overlooked these stalls. Instead, two of them currently hold stars from the prestigious France-based publication.
One is called Tai Hwa Pork Noodle, and it sells bowls of minced meat and noodles. The other is a stall in Smith Street’s Chinatown Complex with the unwieldy name of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, and is best known for its $2 SGD plate of—as you might expect—soy sauce chicken with rice or noodles, served on disposable plates. At about $1.50 USD, this is the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world. To try it, you’ll need to be prepared to brave hours-long queues and no air conditioning, but hundreds of people do each day to enjoy the chicken that’s marinaded in a spice mix overnight, and then braised until the skin is brown and glossy.
That’s the original Liao Fan location, and technically the only one that holds a Michelin star. Since being awarded the star in 2016, however, the stall’s owner, Chan Hon Meng, has partnered with Hersing Culinary to open a number of additional locations, which go by the name Liao Fan Hawker Chan, in places including Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, and, most recently, Melbourne, Australia. Fun fact: Hersing Culinary is the same company that partnered with Hong Kong-based dim sum eatery Tim Ho Wan, which previously held the designation of “cheapest Michelin-starred,” to expand that restaurant’s reach around the globe. There are now dozens of Tim Ho Wan locations worldwide, including a new one in New York City.
“I would like to open a restaurant in every country to let everyone taste my soy sauce chicken,” Chan told CNBC, which reports that he aspires to build his company into a rival to KFC.
The new Liao Fan Hawker Chan branches—including the first one, just across the street from the original hawker stall—have more comforts common to Michelin-starred restaurants, like seating and air-conditioning, but don’t offer reservations or table service, much less white linens or crystal stemware. The prices are slightly higher than at the original hawker stall but still relatively cheap, and their expanded menus offer dishes including wonton soup and Thai-style tofu, in addition to the braised chicken, roast pork, and char siu that the original is known for.
You’ll still have to travel to Singapore for the novelty of tasting the cheapest Michelin-starred meal, but the flavors of Chan’s chicken may be available much closer to you soon.
Blk 335, Smith Street #02-126, Chinatown Complex, Singapore 050335