Food fad of the year: People queued 5 hours for...

Meals from the brand-new Pokemon pop-up cafe at Bugis Junction that drew an impressive five-hour queue on its first day.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Singaporeans have once again validated the saying that queueing for food is a national pastime.

They hung on even after being told they had to wait more than two hours for Bake cheese tarts at Ion Orchard. They went to Changi Airport at 7am for the opening of Hello Kitty Orchid Garden Cafe.

Singapore's first Hello Kitty cafe opens at Changi Airport

And 2016 was the year Singapore got its first Michelin guide - which not surprisingly stretched the already long queues at the two hawker stalls that received a Michelin star each. Customers of Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle had to queue for over an hour the day after the awards ceremony, while customers at Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle in Crawford Lane reported having to queue for up to two hours.

Tai Hwa Pork Noodle and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle awarded one Michelin star

  • Culinary bible Michelin on Thursday awarded one star each to two street food hawkers in Singapore, the first in the guide's history.
  • "For the first time, you would be able to have a Michelin-starred meal for under S$5," said Michael Ellis, international director of the Michelin guides.
  • Launching the inaugural restaurant and hotel guide to the Southeast Asian city-state, Michelin inspectors gave one star each to Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle.
  • "Singapore was the natural choice for expansion because of the breadth and depth of the culinary scene, where you not only have a wide variety, but also very good cooking. And there is a strong culture of eating out, whether at a hawker stall or in a fine dining restaurant," he told AFP.
  • In a country where people take their food seriously - Singaporeans consider eating a national past time - 36 different cuisines were featured in the guide, ranging from Chinese to Australian.
  • When the Bib Gourmand list went public last week and his stall was not on it, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle's owner Tang Chay Seng was most disappointed.
  • "The Michelin officials came to my stall to look for me last week, and told me I was getting an award. But when the papers came out I called them to tell them my name wasn't in it," said the 69-year-old, who runs the popular Teochew-style pork-and-vinegar noodle stall at Crawford Lane.
  • It was founded by his father Tang Joon Teo in 1932, and moved to its current location in 2004.
  • He continued over a phone interview in Mandarin: "They just told me it's okay, sure will have one. So I'm not sure lah."
  • Despite believing that he was passed over for an award, Mr Tang still attended the gala dinner on Thursday night, if anything to just "see people receive their award and clap for them".
  • After discovering that he did indeed receive a star however, he remained practical and said: "I feel pretty normal about it. It's not that I'm not happy - getting a star means affirmation for my food. But there's a bit of pressure now to deliver. Because everyone's taste buds are subjective and I don't want to disappoint customers."
  • Both hawkers told told Channel NewsAsia that they will not be raising prices, but expect that the up to 45-minute-long queues will stretch even longer.

When Tsuta, another Michelin-starred eatery from Tokyo opened here, 250 people got in line for its award-winning ramen - even if it meant a wait of more than an hour.

Michelin-starred ramen restaurant Tsuta opens in Singapore

  • The only ramen restaurant in the world with a Michelin star is opening in Singapore on November 6, 2016.
  • Tsuta, a nine-seat eatery in Sugamo, Tokyo, will open an 18-seat restaurant on the ground floor of Pacific Plaza in Scotts Road.
  • Tsuta chef-owner Yuki Onishi says in Japanese via a translator that he was persuaded to open the 1,000 sq ft Singapore outlet because of the sincerity of Mr Brian Chua, Hersing's vice-president.
  • The restaurant will be a partnership with investment company Hersing Corporation, which is also behind Tim Ho Wan and Kam's Roast Goose, that will also open at the mall, in November.
  • It will be the second Tsuta in the world.
  • One day after Tsuta received its one Michelin star on Dec 1 last year, Mr Chua contacted him via Facebook to open a branch in Singapore.
  • The following week, Mr Chua, 35, flew to Japan to try the ramen at Tsuta (pictured), where he waited in line with other customers.
  • On accepting Mr Chua's offer over the many other opportunities to open branches overseas, Mr Onishi, 37, says: "Others only contacted me by mail and just wanted to talk business. I don't know if they came to queue and try the ramen."
  • Mr Chua says jokingly: "The key difference is that he needs to know you ate the ramen. After Tsuta got its Michelin star, we didn't want to waste any time getting in touch."
  • The Singapore menu will feature Tsuta's signature shoyu and shio ramen.
  • Miso ramen and tsukemen (ramen served with dipping soup) - which are on the menu in Japan - may be introduced later.
  • The shoyu ramen is made with shoyu (soya sauce) from a factory in the Wakayama prefecture and blended with two other types of shoyu and a dashi made with beef, vegetables, clams and other ingredients. It is topped with black truffle sauce.
  • The shio ramen is made with chicken-seafood broth, rock salt, red wine and rosemary.
  • Interestingly, the eatery's full name is Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta, but Mr Onishi explains that he uses the word "soba" as the noodles are "typical of Japanese food culture and held at a higher standard than the more common ramen".
  • Mr Onishi gave up his five-year career as an importer in the fashion industry to learn the ramen business from his father, who started a traditional ramen restaurant called Mejiro 19 years ago.

Astonished? We haven't reached the top of the list.

Our pick for food fad of the year goes to the pop-up Pokemon cafe, which debuted to a five-hour queue. Fans were seen sitting on the floor in Bugis Junction on its opening day. Many reached hours before the opening time of 11am, with a few arriving at early as 6.45am! It's no wonder the 60-seat cafe decided to pop up for a second edition.

Pokemon pop-up cafe returns for 2nd edition

huizhen@sph.com.sg

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