BY TAN BEE HONG
THERE’S plenty of buzz surrounding Hawker Chan’s first outlet in Petaling Street, on the fringes of KL’s Chinatown. Not surprising, as Hawker Chan was the world’s first hawker stall to be awarded a Michelin star.
It all began when Chan Hon Meng left his hometown in Ipoh and apprenticed under a Hong Kong chef in Singapore. He learnt the basics and created his own recipe for soya sauce chicken, which would become his signature dish when he set up the Liao Fan Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle outlet in the Chinatown Complex Food Centre.
In 2016, he astounded everyone when he was awarded a Michelin star, which he managed to retain over the next three years. Today, there are Hawker Chan restaurants in six countries, including the Philippines, Australia, Taiwan and Thailand.
The KL restaurant is operated by Superfood Ventures Sdn Bhd, and its director Victor Teo says there are already plans to open more outlets in and around the city.
It’s self-service at this no-frills outlet. Customers place their orders at the counter and are notified when it is ready. They also pick up their own cutlery and condiments from a counter at the back. Teo says this concept ensures customers get their food as quickly as possible.
The chefs are trained in Singapore by Chan to prepare the food according to his specifications, especially the marinade for his signature Hong Kong-style soya sauce chicken.
Unlike regular chicken rice stalls that offer either poached or roasted chicken, Hawker Chan only serves soya sauce chicken with rice, wantan noodles or hor fun (flat rice noodles).
The taste is definitely different. The use of caramelised soya sauce gives the chicken a slightly sweetish taste that enhances the flavour of the meat. I am told the marinade requires five hours to prepare, and this is done daily to ensure freshness.
At RM8.80 for a plate of braised soya sauce chicken rice – not to mention bragging rights about eating a Michelin star meal – it is definitely affordable. The chicken is silky smooth and juicy, and there are lashings of sauce on the rice. On the side, you also get braised peanuts.
For the drumstick option, customers pay an extra RM1.50. Noodles with soya sauce chicken is RM9.80.
The chicken is available in quarter portion (RM11-RM14), half portion (RM23) and RM45 for the whole bird. Then there are platters of char siew, roasted ribs and siew yoke. All rice and meat platters come with braised peanuts and sliced cucumber.
There’s char siew rice and siew yoke rice (RM9.80) and noodles (RM10.80/RM11.80 respectively). The char siew comes with a nice layer of fat, so the meat stays juicy and tender, not dry. For those who prefer it lean, roasted pork rib is popular.
I love the papaya tea soup (RM7). Chunks of green papaya, red dates and meat ribs are steamed in individual bowls with a green tea bag. While you don’t really taste the tea, it does add oomph to the soup. One serving is plenty for two or three diners to share.
Side dishes include blanched choi sum (RM6) in soya sauce and deepfried garlic, beansprouts and a zesty Thai-style tofu (RM5).
The thick slices of tofu are deepfried. The outside is crispy while the inside is soft and silky. It’s served with a sweet-sour chilli dip, and toppings of julienned green mango and crushed peanuts. So appetising.
Tan Bee Hong is a food critic-cum-blogger at fatphoenix.my. She can be contacted at email@example.com.