The Yum List chats with Chef Chan Hon Meng, better known as Hawker Chan, or Malaysian born Michelin Starred Chef now residing in Singapore, about his rise to fame, his recent collaboration with Tiger Streats, and plans for the future.
How did you get into the industry?
I developed a passion for cooking very early in life. I first started learning how to cook in my family kitchen before accepting apprenticeships with chefs from a few eateries in my hometown, Ipoh, Malaysia. I left for Singapore in 1990 and that’s where I met a chef from Hong Kong who taught me how to make soya sauce chicken and I slowly modified its taste over the years, and opened my own hawker stall called Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
When I first started my business in Singapore, I kept hearing people saying it won’t work because consumers would prefer the usual steamed chicken compared to the soya sauce chicken that I was offering. I didn’t let those comments stop me from doing what I loved and I’m grateful that I didn’t give up!
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
Best: The establishment of Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle stall, and when it received a Michelin Star.
Worst: Due to current economic situation, price of goods are getting higher, even street food is getting more expensive these days.
What’s one of the most outrageous things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
Having to manage so many different kinds of customers who come to my stall with different expectations can be overwhelming sometimes. Some will be in a rush and become restless when they had to queue up, some will just walk straight to the counter and demand for their food immediately while there are others who can wait patiently. Nevertheless, I’m happy to serve all of them!
The perfect day off would be…
To be with my family, have some home-cooked meal while catching up on things.
A day in the life of a chef is…
I wake up very early in the morning to prepare the sauce, and as the day goes by, I will get busy preparing food for customers until 10pm. When I’m back home at night, I will just rest and watch the TV with my family and get ready for another busy day at work.
What do you do for fun?
I love experimenting with new things for my dish. Finding new ways to make my recipe better and to provide the best for my customers is what I have fun doing.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle stall?
I have put in a lot of effort to come up with this eatery. I just want my customers to know that I truly appreciate their love and support towards my dishes and that I will keep making them happy!
What’s your favourite food to pair with beer?
Anything that’s made of meat would go really well with beer for me.
What’s your view on the food scene in Singapore compared to Malaysia?
All types of food from both the countries are different and special in their own way. The method of cooking and types of ingredients used for the same dish at different places will give out a whole different kind of taste. But Asian countries are like heaven for food lovers, aren’t they?
It must be a challenge cooking for over 700 people at once. Have you ever done anything like that before Tiger STREATS?
I wouldn’t call it a challenge because I am quite used to preparing food for more than 1000 pax every day at the stall.
How much has your life changed since your hawker stand received the Michelin Star recognition?
I am a lot busier now. With the partnership with Hersing Culinary to open up a restaurant and with the urge to learn even more new things, I am determined to give my best to my valued customers,
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
I am just going to focus on what’s happening at the moment and go with the flow. I’m looking forward to preparing myself to face many more adventures to come my way.
How was your experience collaborating with Chef Ramsey?
It was amazing! I learnt a lot from Chef Ramsey, especially his style of preparing food and his attention to details when plating the food is just fascinating.
What do you think about the collaboration dish you both created for Tiger STREATS?
We collaborated and prepared a dessert called “Two Makes a Blossom.” It has the aromatic combination of Asian pears with a rosewater and honey mousse that enhances the homely taste of the classic flower jelly. Fermented roselle and its syrup coupled with a mint garnishing tops off this breezy dessert. We couldn’t be happier with this creation.