Congratulations to the above two hawkers who have done Singapore proud. I have eaten at both stalls, used to be more frequently at Hill Street Tai Hwa Minced Pork Noodles when he was at the old Marina Square food court. The Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken noodle stall was an accidental find when I was queuing at Heng Ji chicken rice stall (亨记鸡饭) just a few stalls away and I noticed another queue snaking from this stall, and that was about three years ago. What was more pleasantly surprising than his delicious and succulent chickens was his daughter and mine used to study in the same primary school before mine was transferred to her current school.
However, I have not visited their stalls respectively for several years. Maybe I am getting old, or my taste buds have changed.....nowadays I yearn for something less salty, and more subtle in flavours. I admit when I first tasted their food, the flavours would just explode inside my mouth and hit me like a sledgehammer. It left me with no time to think and analyze and all I wanted to do was to keep putting the food into my mouth again and again.
The years of abuse have certainly taken a toll on my palate. Not to mention the queues that take away so much time. To me, life is too short to spend time queuing for food, no matter how good or famous it might seem. This Michelin award reminds me of Tian Tian chicken rice made super famous by Anthony Bourdain. Today, the stall is more famous for its queue that stretches all the way to the car park than its deteriorating standard. How many times have we seen this being repeated in the F&B scene?
I am sure there is still a huge legion of fans for the newly minted Michelin Star hawkers. I just pray that the quality of their food remains at the same level after their global fame. Good luck to those who would brave anything for good food and boasting rights.
Instead, what did I have for breakfast today? Well, pardon me for sounding so old and nostalgic. My wife and I drove from Pasir Panjang to Serangoon Gardens hawker centre to re-discover an old taste for old time's sake. When we were dating, that was our usual hangout in the mornings (the days before the hawker centre was renovated). We love the bread stall which sells freshly baked buns, the pig's organ soup (when it was still manned by the old couple), the char kway teow (I never heard anything about the old man since the stall was closed), the braised duck, the coffee stall (i missed the days when there were two rival coffee stalls and the tension in the air :)), and finally my comfort teo chew porridge stall. The moment we settle down at the hawker centre, it feels like home. The stall owners would know what we like, the boss would ask about our children, and the coffee still packs a punch and fills our nostrils with aroma. Food has become a more personal and emotional pursuit, one not in the vein of chasing the crowds, lining up, taking photos of it and share on Instagram.
It is getting rid of all the unnecessary noise, finding my familiar and favourite seat, and sharing our first greetings with the hawkers. Of course, my wife and I would sit and talk and eat like it was still 1997, like nothing has ever changed. Even though the food may not be the best (in some ang moh's or Singaporeans' eyes) , for these simple pleasures, the stalls are worth their own Michelin Stars!