Restaurants / Bars

Is The Upgraded Hawker Chan of the Michelin-Starred Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle Stand Worth It?

May 29, 2017

If you think it’s hard to get a reservation at one of those $250 Michelin-Star restaurants, imagine what it’s like grabbing a seat in a first-come-first-serve hole-in-the-wall with the same Michelin accolades and prices that are cheaper than the cab fare it took to get there? That’s why we can’t exactly blame the hawker stand formerly called Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle for upgrading their facilities to appease the hours-long lines. Though when a family-run, homegrown operation upgrades their facilities to match factory-line demands, there is often a sacrifice in quality. So we visit the newly minted Hawker Chan to see if it is still worth the fuss.

Hawker Chan can’t be missed at the end of Smith Street, a short walk from the Chinatown MRT stop.

THE LINES

There is still a very noticeably long line, especially around lunch time, managed by winding stanchions. But even if the lines goes 10 people deep, you only wait about 10-15 minutes to reach the front, where you have 2 options of payment: pay directly to a cashier, or place your order in an automated machine where you press the items in your menu and deposit the cash (or insert your card) into designated slots—a dream situation for introverts out there. You are given a waiting number, and this is where the waiting gets a bit worse. In the two times we visited Hawker Chan, we had to wait much longer for the food than we did in line. The food took about 20 minutes, but thankfully, we got to wait while seated while waiting for a bell to ding and our number to appear on the screen. Go to love the technological conveniences that Singapore has to offer!

THE PRICE

Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle upgraded their facilities into a quick-service joint, and all the modern conveniences they offer.

The prices at Hawker Chan are a wee bit higher than their original hawker prices, but you sacrifice the extra dollar and a half for the significantly shorter waiting time, the convenience of fast and no-fuss payment that accepts card if needed, and a comfortable air-conditioned dining area. Besides, any meal for less than SGD 6 in Singapore is a steal.

THE CHICKEN RICE

The classic chicken rice meal costs SGD 3.8 a plate.

The meat is tender and incredibly sweet, with a roasted, nutty sauce. It’s flavorful enough that it doesn’t need the signature thick, brown sauce that you would normally dip it in—and besides, Hawker Chan’s was essentially a brown syrup that seems it would go better on pancakes and bacon. A meal at this price in one of the most notoriously expensive cities in the world is always a great steal, but the small plate that took over half an hour to acquire was lacking. Maybe it’s just our appetite but we suggest getting any of the multitudinous combinations that are more decently sized as a meal. This was snack-sized.

THE CHICKEN NOODLES

Much more filling than the chicken rice classic, the chicken noodles are SGD 4.5.

With less than a dollar more, you can upgrade to the noodle set, which is surprisingly significantly more filling than its rice counterpart—just enough, in fact, for us. A perfectly sized meal, the noodles click with the chili sauce and brown juice that drips off the marinated, juicy chicken. The subtle noodle flavors let the chicken (the same tender and sweet chicken served with their chicken rice) shine.

THE VERDICT

With prices this low, and a line that doesn’t kill your soul, it wouldn’t be a mistake to come to Hawker Chan if it interests you that much—although keep in mind that it is not the same restaurant with the Michelin Star, and some reviewers have noted that it is not the same quality. It’s delicious in the way that Singapore’s famous Chicken Rice is always going to be delicious, but not in the way that we would vote it as one of the best meals that Singapore has to offer. Still, we can’t deny that we enjoyed our meal and wouldn’t mind taking out a whole chicken to a Filipino friend’s place in Singapore for dinner, even if just to share in the novelty of enjoying food from a Michelin Star chef’s fast food joint.

Bea Osmeña SEE AUTHOR Bea Osmeña Bea Osmeña is a healthy-ish eater who is just as likely to take you to a vegan joint as she is to consume a whole cheese pie to herself. A former picky eater, Bea has discovered the joys of savory fruit dishes, but still refuses to accept pineapples on her pizza. On the rare occasion you catch her without food in her mouth, you are likely to find her looking at books she can't afford, hugging trees, or talking to strange animals on the street.
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