Marie- Claire Digby talks to street chef Chan Hon Meng about his Michelin star
The year 2016 has come to be seen as the pivotal point when the Michelin Guide, arbiter of restaurant dining, confirmed that it really was all about the food, not plush dining rooms, slick service and luxurious facilities.
In October of that year they awarded one- star status to Heron & Grey, a small, one- room restaurant in a south Dublin flea market. And just three months earlier, the guide accorded the same accolade to two hawker stalls operating in food courts in Singapore. Chan Hon Meng, who owns one of those street- food venues – the Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle – will be cooking his Michelin star- worthy dish at Tiger Street Eats, a pop- up event at Portobello Harbour in Dublin 8 on July 20th- 22nd.
Tiger Street Eats is open to the public ( tickets, ¤ 10, available at eventbrite. ie), and Dublin is the European launch venue for the collaboration between the beer company and the chef. It was staged in Sydney, Auckland, New York and Kuala Lumpur last November and December.
Since his restaurant was singled out by Michelin, chef Chan Hon Meng has entered into a partnership with Hersing Culinary, a food and beverage services corporation, and is involved in a number of outlets serving his chicken dish in Bangkok, Taiwan and Indonesia, as well as Singapore. The rapid expansion mirrors the roll- out of of Tim Ho Wan, the Hong Kong dumpling shop that also won a star and is now represented by 38 outlets in nine countries. Chan Hon Meng spoke to The Irish Times, though an interpreter, in advance of his visit. What will you be cooking when you come to Dublin? I will be preparing my signature HK Soya Sauce Chicken Rice. All the fresh ingredients will be sourced locally in Ireland. I will prepare my braise sauce from scratch using Asian herbs and will be cooking it exactly like how I do it in Singapore. Where did you learn to make this Cantonese dish, and what makes your version of it so special? I learned it from a Hong Kong chef. Over the years, I tweaked and perfected the recipe myself to suit the local taste and preference. It is slowly braised at the right temperature with a mixture of Chinese herbs and spices that is unique to my hawker stall. How many chickens do you cook each day for the stall? I cook a total of 90 chickens a day at my hawker stall and 190- 200 at the quick service restaurant downstairs. People queue for up to three hours in Singapore to eat your dish. How does that make you feel? I am very thankful for the longstanding support of my fans and customers. To me, it is a privilege to serve my humble dish to them. I take approximately five to six hours to prepare the food, from start to finish. How did you feel when you were told you had won a star and when you went to the awards ceremony? I was overjoyed, surprised and excited; receiving a Michelin star is a very humbling experience for a hawker. I had never been to an awards ceremony, especially one that is so prestigious. How has your life changed since winning the Michelin star? My life changed completely; many doors opened. I was exposed to many different cultures, food and opportunities. Partnering with Tiger has brought me to places I’ve never dreamt of going, such as Australia and New York. Do you still cook at the hawker stall? I cook at both the stall and restaurant. I also check on the food quality to ensure that standards are maintained and only the best are served to customers. Is it a family business? Yes, I started Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodles with my wife. I will prepare the dishes, chopping and cooking. My wife handles the accounts.