When you're hungry, what do you crave? Pizza? Hamburgers? Tacos? Whatever it is, the chances are that it's some kind of fast food. And this feeling is pretty much universal. Around the world, street food (quick dishes that are served from either a cart, a truck, or a small stall in a market) are just as loved. In fact, these dishes are usually a big part of a country's culture. It doesn't matter that they're cheap, sometimes unhealthy, or can even be a little dull. And it certainly doesn't matter if they're not considered "fine dining". They just hit the spot. Yum!
But in the southeast Asian country of Singapore (where the street food dudes are called "hawkers") there are a pair of food stalls whose cheap meals are so good, they've been recognized with an award normally given to only the finest restaurants in the world.
The street stalls are Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle.
And the award? It's called the Michelin Star.
They never got "tired" eating
Okay, some background first. Michelin is a French auto parts company. It was founded in 1889 and is most famous for its tires (as well as its rubber mascot, the Michelin Man). Back in 1900, they decided to publish their first Michelin Guide. It was a handbook to help tourists know the best places to visit in France. Soon they expanded the guide to cover countries all across Europe and in other places around the world. Michelin Guide focused on lots of things—hotels, attractions—but after 1926, they became famous for one thing. Their restaurant reviews. Only restaurants that were of the highest quality would receive a star rating (one, two, or three stars) next to their review.
By the 1960s, getting a Michelin Star was the ultimate achievement for restaurants and chefs, and this is the same today. How hard is it? No restaurant in Canada has ever received one (though the guide isn't published here yet, so there would probably be quite a few in the country that would deserve them). And tough guy celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay? He cried when his New York restaurant, The London, lost its two-star Michelin rating in 2014. No one is above the powers of the Michelin Star.
So if some of the best chefs out there can go an entire career without a star, how did two guys in cramped food courts in Singapore get them? For starters, 2016 is the first year that Michelin has published a guide for the tiny island country. And in addition, the guide has always had the "Bib Gourmand", a list that features cheaper restaurants with good food (Michelin-starred restaurants are very expensive). But Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle aren't on the Bib Gourmand list. They're on the starred list alongside the best, most expensive restaurants in the Singapore...even though their food costs about $2 and is served in a mall. It's the first time this has ever happened anywhere.
The funny thing about Singapore's food scene is that there are about 15,000 hawkers in that country. Their crowded food halls are everywhere! This fact makes it ever more incredible that these two stalls stood out from the pack. Will it last? Michelin Guides are very fussy, and they aren't afraid of removing stars from restaurants the very next year. But for now, these two modest chefs are the talk of the food world. Not bad for a bowl of noodles, broth, veggies and meat! We're getting pretty hungry just thinking about it… gotta go!