Next week, the first edition of the Michelin Guide Singapore will be officially released. This is the famous French guidebook for foodies and we join an elite group of only 28 other countries to have their own Michelin Guide. That's less than the number of national teams in each World Cup. But when the announcement that Singapore would get its own Michelin Guide was made last year, the question was whether the guide would feature our country's rich diversity of hawker food.
Yesterday, ahead of the official release of the Michelin Guide Singapore, that question was answered, and the big news is that the Michelin Guide Singapore awarded 34 eateries in Singapore the Bib Gourmand rating.
Huh? Simi sai Bib Gourmand?
The Bib Gourmand rating celebrates "exceptional good food at moderate prices". For Singapore's first Michelin Guide, the definition of "moderate price" is $45. While that seems like a really high price, it's good to know that half of the 34 Bib Gourmand awardees are hawker stalls, with the other half restaurants of varying ambience and service levels.
And while the Bib Gourmand rating is awarded to the eatery, and not to a specific dish, here are 7 dishes from some of the 34 awardees that you can get for $10 or less.
1. Chicken dum biryani, $8.50
50 Dunlop Street
While it is not their signature dish - that would be the mutton dum biryani priced at $15 - the chicken dum biryani from Bismillah Biryani is a relatively cheap $8.50. Their biryani is done in the authentic Hyderabad style, which is different from what Singaporeans may be used to. Bismillah Biryani became famous worldwide when it was featured on the premiere episode of The Layover, a travel and food show hosted by Anthony Bourdain, back in 2011.
The Bib Gourmand rating comes at a really opportune time, as Bismillah Biryani has finally expanded beyond Dunlop Street and just opened a new branch this week at Nexus@one-north.
2. Fishball noodles, $4.50
The Fishball Story
timbre+, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent
Formerly based at the Golden Mile Food Centre, The Fishball Story boasts freshly handmade fishballs that are 100 per cent fish meat. But what's more important is that it boasts a young hawker - Douglas Ng who has defied the odds to ensure that Singaporeans get to appreciate what authentic fishballs are supposed to taste like. The Bib Gourmand rating is an affirmation of his hard work and sacrifice.
3. Laksa, $5
328 Katong Laksa
51 East Coast Road / 216 East Coast Road
In a clear tribute to how Singaporean this spicy noodle soup is, the Bib Gourmand rating was given to not just one, but three locations in Singapore which served laksa. However, having grown up in the East Coast area, I have to acknowledge the uniqueness of the version served by 328 Katong Laksa. Unlike other laksa dishes, the noodles they serve are cut up into smaller pieces, so that the entire dish can be eaten solely with a spoon. Presumably, this is because you need the other hand to constantly wipe your forehead - though the fact that their two outlets are now air-conditioned makes a big difference.
Though their 'small' bowl is priced at $5, it's surprisingly filling. If you have a larger appetite, though, you can get a larger portion for $7.
4. Beef Noodle, $5
Hong Kee Beef Noodle
Amoy Street Food Centre
7 Maxwell Road, #01-42
Amoy Street Food Centre is the place to go for the discerning foodie on a budget, and it's no surprise that among the 34 Bib Gourmand awardees, 4 of them can be found here. And when it comes to value for money in the CBD area, look no further than Hong Kee Beef Noodle, which charges only $4, $5 and $6 for their eponymous noodle dish, which comes in both dry and soup versions.
5. Carrot Cake, $4
Chey Sua Carrot Cake
Toa Payoh West Market and Food Court
127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #02-30
The humble carrot cake is an excellent option if you're looking for a filling meal that doesn't involve meat. However, with this dish, it's tough to balance taste and price - the disappointment of a bland carrot cake cannot be understated. The constant queues at Chey Sua Carrot Cake in Toa Payoh speak otherwise, and unlike most other hawker stalls, Chey Sua Carrot Cake only sells the "white" version of the dish - that is, without dark soy sauce added. Portions cost $2, $3 and $4, but of course the $4 is the most value for money.
6. Rojak, $4
Balestier Road Hoover Rojak
Whampoa Drive Food Centre
90 Whampoa Drive, #01-06
Rojak has become synonymous with Singapore's multi-cultural society because of the parallels of how seemingly incompatible ingredients work can amazingly well together with the right sauce to bind them. And when it comes to famous rojak sauces, the stall to beat is Balestier Road Hoover Rojak. At a minimum of $4 a dish, it's one of the pricier rojak options in Singapore, but the long queues means there's clearly still a demand.
7. Chicken Rice, $3.80
Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice
Tiong Bahru Market
30 Seng Poh Road, #02-82
While chilli crab may be known internationally as THE Singapore dish, the truth is that every Singaporean would probably consider chicken rice to be their Singapore staple. And with so many options available throughout the island, everyone's got their own favourite. The Bib Gourmand rating was given to two chicken rice stalls in Singapore, but among my circle of friends, one of them is pretty overrated. The other, is Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice.
It's great that Singapore's hawker food is being internationally recognised, but what's even better is that most of these food items are priced at less than $5. Singapore continues to be a haven for dining options that are value for money, if you can endure the heat and the queues. Bon appetit!
What are your favourite food options below $10? Share them with us.