If dining at a Michelin-starred restaurant is one of your New Year’s resolutions, you’re in luck. Singapore’s street food eatery Hawker Chan, which nabbed a coveted Michelin Star in both 2016 and 2017, has opened its first Australian spin-off on Melbourne’s Lonsdale Street.
Affectionately known as the cheapest Michelin-starred eatery in the world, it’s run by chef Chan Hong Meng, who’s centred the menu around crisp-skinned soy chicken, char siu (BBQ pork) and crisp-skin roast pork.
“Hawker style Cantonese food is multicultural but mostly Hokkien or Cantonese-style food,” Chef Meng explains to SBS. “It is simple, comfort food for everyone.”
Hawker Chan’s signature dish is its Singapore chicken rice, the same one that nabbed the attention of the food critics.
“The secret is smooth chicken with a fragrant sauce,” Meng says. “I am almost certain that the chicken rice from Hawker Chan will be the biggest hit in the Australian market.” It's vague but rightly so, given this is Chan's crowd-pulling dish. Made with a mix of aromatics including Chinese angelica root, cloves, coriander seed and star anise, the soy marinade is prepared from scratch each day before the whole chickens are steeped in it overnight, then braised until the skin turns brown and glossy.
The restaurant is a collaboration between Meng and Hersing Corporation, the same Singaporean investment company who brought dumpling gurus Tim Ho Wan to Melbourne. The Melbourne branch of Hawker Chan joins other recent additions in Thailand, Taiwan, and Indonesia.
Learning the Cantonese Hong Kong style of cooking in Singapore, Meng is keen to understand the local market and see if his food is “suitable” for an Australian palate. “Every day, the chefs are trying to fine tune and improve the taste of the food. Adaptation to the local taste is the key.”
A punchy menu featuring 20 dishes spans the famous chicken rice to wonton soup, char siew noodle, and roasted pork rice, and the space is everything you’d expect from a hawker-style eatery: loud, bustling and fast-paced. The bright, timber-heavy fit-out has taken over the former Kokoro Ramen site with a self-ordering system where diners pay at the counter and wait for their number to flash. There's no table service, but who cares when there’s Michelin-starred plates on offer from $6.80 without jet-lag for dessert?
Hawker Chan is open daily, 10am - 10pm.
157 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne