I queued up and tried these Michelin Bib Gourmand stalls to see if they were worth the hype, here's my verdict

PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa Teo

Singaporeans love queuing, especially for things that are famous or highly raved about. So if an eatery wins the Michelin Bib Gourmand title, you can expect throngs of Singaporeans to form snaking queues outside the store soon after.

For the uninitiated, the Michelin Bib Gourmand is an award given to restaurants and street food establishments "that offer diners very good value for money, with a complete and high quality menu priced at a maximum of SG$45", as stated in the Michelin Guide. It is not to be confused with the Michelin Star or Michelin Recommendations.

As a self-proclaimed foodie, I don't mind waiting in an arduously long queue just to eat at an eatery with such a prestigious title. However, it can be quite upsetting when the food falls short of one's expectations, which I have unfortunately experienced with a number of award-winning dining establishments.

With that, here is a list of some of the Michelin Bib Gourmand stalls that I've eaten at over the years, some of which I love and others that I won't bother eating twice at. I am no professional food-taster and these are merely my opinions. Everyone has different tastes and preferences so you may feel differently about some of the places I'm mentioning.

Bedok Chwee Kueh: Not worth the hype

Bedok Chwee Kueh first got the Michelin Bib Gourmand award in 2019 and is the first chwee kueh stall in Singapore to receive the title. They've also added a few outlets across the island, with the original stall located at Bedok Interchange.

I've tried the chwee kueh from both the original stall and their franchises, and while it's decent, I don't find anything particularly outstanding about it. Apart from the rice cakes which have a very soft, pillowy texture, the preserved radish and chilli could be better and more fragrant.

I believe, like many other famous eateries that started their own chains, the original quality of the dish might have been compromised during the expansion. In all honesty, if no one had told me that this was a Michelin Bib Gourmand stall, I wouldn't have guessed it.

Addresss: 208A New Upper Changi Road, #01-19, Singapore 460208

Chuan Kee Boneless Braised Duck: Worth the hype

It is rare for one to head down to Chuan Kee Boneless Braised Duck and not see a queue, even during off-peak hours.

PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa Teo 

While duck rice stalls are a dime a dozen in Singapore, this particular one has managed to stand out from the lot with their simple yet scrumptious Teochew-style braised duck rice. They first won the Michelin Bib Gourmand award in 2018 and have maintained the title till today.

One thing that they always managed to nail is the texture of the braised duck. Unlike most places that push out dry, overcooked, and rubbery renditions of the protein, Chuan Kee's version impresses by being consistently tender and juicy. I also like how the duck here does not have an overwhelming gamey flavour thanks to how the owner prepares it.

The duck isn't the only well-executed component on the plate, and one can also look forward to digging into the fluffy rice that is doused in a viscous, flavourful gravy. I also love the chilli which packs a nice punch without overwhelming the other components of the dish.

Address: 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-04, Singapore 270020

Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa: Worth the hype

For four consecutive years since 2016, Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa at Alexandra Food Centre has maintained its Michelin Bib Gourmand title.

What really makes or breaks a bowl of laksa is the gravy, and the one here gets its creamy texture from the freshly-squeezed coconut milk used. Other ingredients include chilli padi, blue ginger, turmeric, and belachan, which provide the dish with a spicy kick.

A generous amount of rice noodles, beansprouts, fried beancurd, fishcake, prawn, cockles, and chicken come doused in this intense concoction, and the result is a slurp-worthy laksa that is both filling and satisfying.

Address: 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-75 Alexander Hawker Centre

Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee: Not worth the hype

Located at ABC Food Centre, Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Fried Hokkien Mee is one of the two Hokkien mee stalls there and it received the Michelin Bib Gourmand award in 2019.

I've always been intimidated by the queue here, not just because of the long wait, but also because they are very messy. The line sometimes ends up merging with the queues from other stalls, which can result in plenty of confusion and frustration.

Alas, on the day when I finally plucked up the courage to brave the queue for over 45 minutes, I was left disappointed.

PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa Teo 

Overall, while the dish is decent, it lacked umami and was not as flavourful as I had hoped it would be. The dish also did not have much of that charred wok hei which I feel gives a plate of Hokkien mee its character. Ingredients tossed into the noodles were basic and nothing fancy — slivers of pork belly, bits of lard, and some pieces of prawn and squid.

Its only saving grace, in my opinion, is the accompanying sambal chilli sauce which when mixed in, provides the dish with a nice fiery kick.

Hoping that I had just come on a bad day, I asked fellow foodies on their thoughts of the dish. The results were mixed, with some saying that the Hokkien mee here is good, while others shared that they had the same experience as I did. However, the general consensus is that there are better options out there with shorter waiting times, some even without the Michelin Bib Gourmand title.

Address: ABC Brickworks Food Centre, 6 Jalan Bukit Merah, #01-13, Singapore 150006

Song Fa Bak Kut Teh: Worth the hype

I'm not going to lie. I didn't bother patronising Song Fa Bak Kut Teh until quite recently as I assumed that it was overhyped. This is due to the fact that the brand has since become a chain with multiple outlets across the island.

PHOTO: AsiaOne/ Melissa Teo 

I finally decided to try the food at their New Bridge Road outlet, which is also their only store with the Bib Gourmand title that has been maintained for four consecutive years from 2016 to 2019.

My gripe with most of the Teochew-style bak kut tehs in Singapore is that sometimes, the soup can be overwhelmingly peppery, drowning out all the other components of the dish. Song Fa's soup stands out from the rest with a good balance of pepperiness that allows you to taste the other aspects of the dish, such as the savouriness of the pork ribs, and the sharp pungent flavour from the garlic cloves.

While many bak kut tehs I've tried come with over-cooked and dry pork ribs, the ones here at Song Fa don't disappoint and are fall-off-the-bone tender with a good meat to fat ratio. Each rib is also pretty meaty with plenty of bite.

Address: 11 New Bridge Road, #01-01, Singapore 059383

Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee: Worth the hype

Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee is another Hokkien mee stall on the list with the Michelin Bib Gourmand title. They've managed to bag the award for four consecutive years since 2016.

The queue here isn't as chaotic as the one at Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Fried Hokkien Mee and overall, I actually prefer the version here. The prawn stock that the noodles are cooked in is significantly richer and chock full of umami while the noodles also have a distinctive wok hei that is evenly distributed throughout the dish.

I also really like the sambal which is on the sweeter side. However, diners looking for a little more tongue-burning action could be disappointed by it.

Address: 30 Seng Poh Road, #02-01, Singapore 168898

Bonus — Hawker Chan: Not worth the hype

Unlike the other places on this list, Hawker Chan has a Michelin Star instead of a Michelin Bib Gourmand title and is famous for being the cheapest Michelin-starred meal in the world.

I'll be honest and say that I am not of a fan of their food. This is the verdict after patronising both their main store at Smith Street, which has the Bib Gourmand title, as well as their other outlets.

The food served at their franchises, if I were to put it bluntly, are below average. The chicken, char siew, and roast pork are in general overcooked, dry, and inconsistently marinated.

Over at the main outlet at Smith Street, the food admittedly is better and you can find decent plates of their popular Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Soya Chicken Noodle. However, I wouldn't say that they are deserving of the esteemed Michelin Star because at best, the food is average.

Address: 78 Smith Street, Singapore 058972

melissateo@asiaone.com