Hawker Chan Founder Chef Chan Hon Meng Opens Up About Expanding his Michelin Star Brand to the Philippines

Hawker Chan
Hawker Chan’s latest branch at SM City Firview

The world’s cheapest meal to be awarded a Michelin Star (Singapore Chinatown branch) reached Philippine shores in 2018. Filipinos quickly formed a love affair with HAWKER CHAN and I was lucky enough to sit down with founder Chef Chan Hon Meng at the opening of their latest branch in SM City Fairview.

Hawker Chan
Hawker Chan offers the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal

Local partners from Foodee Global Concepts were also at the venue to officially open the branch and to welcome new customers. This is now their 6th branch after only a year in the highly competitive Philippine dining market. Hawker Chan GM Ms. Cherry Lo was gracious enough to translate for me and Chef Chan, as we had a small chat about the restaurant.

Hawker Chan
Chef Chan Hon Meng, Ms. Cherry Lo and the author

ISH: Welcome back to the Philippines Chef! We’re very happy that you’re here with us for the opening of the latest branch of Hawker Chan Philippines

CC: Yes, thank you, I always want to be present whenever we open a new Hawker Chan store. I also make it a point to personally check the quality of all the food that is served in our restaurants.

ISH: Did you have any reservations or fears about opening international franchise stores, considering that you started from a humble hawker store in Singapore?

CC: Before starting my own business, I had a lot of experience working in the food and beverage industry so running a bigger business is not a foreign concept to me. Also, my goal is to spread happiness through my food. I always welcome an opportunity to share my creations to more people. The only difficulty that I faced is sourcing the correct ingredients. We try to stay as local as possible and sadly, this alters the taste. This is why I have to come and adjust the recipe depending on the ingredients available. This way, I can make sure that everything is as close as possible to the food we serve in the original branch.

ISH: Do you have any plans to add new menu items for the Philippine market? Maybe something like a local dessert?

CC: For sure we will always study the eating habits of our customers and see what we can add. However, even though I am a fan of Filipino food, I want to make sure that the Hawker Chan menu sticks to its roots. We will study the customer preference and see what we can change in the future.

ISH: Did you notice any difference between Filipino diners and your other customers?

CC: Yes, I noticed a big difference. I think Filipinos love to eat and you can see it with how they enjoy their meals. They like to try new things and order different items from the menu. Customers in other countries usually just order the same thing that they like. Filipinos like to explore and enjoy their meals with their family and friends. It’s not just about eating for sustenance.

ISH: This question is for Foodee Global Concepts, I noticed a big difference in the decor and ambience between the Philippine stores and the other Hawker Chan branches that I have been to. Obviously the Singapore branch is a hawker stall. The one I tried in Australia has a cafeteria vibe. Here, it seems more elevated.

CL: Yes, we made a conscious effort to make the Hawker Chan branches more aesthetically appealing. Like we said before, Filipinos enjoy the dining experience. It’s not just about filling your tummy. We want our restaurants to be the kind of place where families can sit down and enjoy their meals in a nice environment.

Hawker Chan
The author and Chef Chan Hon Meng

Now, let’s talk about the food. Of course, we enjoyed plenty of servings of Hawker Chan’s famous Soya Sauce Chicken. This is the dish that put this restaurant on the map, literally! The original branch in Singapore was awarded one Michelin Star in July of 2016. The Soya Sauce Chicken is largely credited as the restaurant’s specialty and the main force behind the long queues.

Hawker Chan
Hawker Chan’s Soya Sauce Chicken

Apart from the Soya Sauce Chicken, we also shared a platter of Char Siew (Barbecue Pork) and Roasted Pork. I was also happy to discover that they now serve Beef Brisket. I loved the tender pieces of braised beef belly. I like my beef super tender with lots of cartilage so I enjoyed this dish.

Hawker Chan
Braised Beef with Vegetable Noodles
Hawker Chan
Signature 3 Meat Platter

This was  my first time to try their selection of side dishes and I was pleasantly surprised by how good their fried dumplings are. The roasted meats may be their specialty but you shouldn’t skip ordering the sides as well.

Hawker Chan
Fried Dumplings
Hawker Chan
Thai Style Tofu
Hawker Chan
Seasoned Vegetables

Filipinos usually gravitate towards the rice meals but I am a fan of their egg noodles. The green-tinged vegetable noodles are great too! They retain their firm texture even after being doused with a lot of sauce. However, a little caveat. There is a definite herby aftertaste that may not be agreeable to some people who don’t really enjoy eating greens.

Hawker Chan
Wonton Noodle

Overall, it was a great dining experience once again at Hawker Chan. As usual, everything was simple, but done really well. Always a safe place to visit to ensure that you end up with a happy tummy.

Visit Zomato to find a Hawker Chan branch near you:
Hawker Chan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato