SINGAPORE - Judging for the annual Singapore Hawker Masters awards started on Friday, with the panel of judges tasting the finalists in the fish soup category.
The stalls were: Ng Seng Heng at Pek Kio Market & Food Centre; Han Kee Fish Soup and Piao Ji Fish Porridge, both at Amoy Street Food Centre; and Han Jiang Fish Soup at 409 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10.
There are four finalists in the fish soup category because two stalls received the same number of votes. The other categories - Indian mee goreng, popiah, beef noodle, lor mee, and mee soto - all have three finalists each.
At each sliced fish soup stall, the eight judges snapped pictures of the dishes and had animated discussions about the key factors that make the perfect one-bowl-wonder. They discussed the merits of the broth as well as the freshness and texture of the fish.
There was a clear favourite - which will be revealed when all the Hawker Masters are announced at an award ceremony.
Straits Times food editor Tan Hsueh Yun, one of the judges, says: "There is a clear winner, which had special ingredients that made it special. The soup is nuanced and the fish is perfectly cooked."
Mr Steven Yeong, chief operating officer and director of restaurant chain River Inn Group, says: "When making fish soup, it is important to have good control of the fire so that the fish is not overcooked. You can prepare other ingredients beforehand, but the fresh fish has to be cooked on the spot."
Ms Karen Sim, 52, who runs fish soup stall Ng Seng Heng at Pek Kio Market & Food Centre with her brother-in-law Dennis Ng, was surprised at the visit from the judges.
She tells Life! that customers had told her that she had made the shortlist of fish soup stalls.
"The recipe was from my brother- in-law's grandfather when the stall opened in 1950 at Albert Street. It has been passed down in the family and my brother-in-law took over seven years ago. We sell a clear soup, and a special fish head soup that is boiled with fried garlic and blue ginger. We do not add milk."
Over the next few weeks, the judges will sample food from the top stalls in the other five categories.
More than 500 nominations were received and the stalls that had the highest number of unique nominations were shortlisted for voting.
The finalists were then determined by more than 2,000 public votes.
The hunt for excellent hawker fare, now in its fifth year, is organised by The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao.
This year's judges include Professor Tommy Koh, ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Mr Dennis Wee, chairman of real estate agency Dennis Wee Group; food consultant and restaurateur Violet Oon; Mr Chia Boon Pin, president of Far East Food Concepts; Mr Wong Ah Yoke, ST food critic and executive sub-editor; Lianhe Zaobao zbNOW food correspondent Marcus Yeo.
Prof Koh says: "A good fish soup must have fresh fish, and I like a clear and light soup. I'm looking forward to trying the dishes from the other categories.
"With this competition, we can champion and show our appreciation for the hawkers and raise their social status. We cannot let this valuable culture die out."
SINGAPORE HAWKER MASTERS FINALISTS
Ng Seng Heng, Pek Kio Market & Food Centre, 01-46
Han Kee Fish Soup, Amoy Street Food Centre, 02-129
Piao Ji Fish Porridge, Amoy Street Food Centre, 02-100
Han Jiang Fish Soup, 409 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, 01-15
INDIAN MEE GORENG
Stall 786, 203 Toa Payoh North
NM Abdul Rahim, Ayer Rajah Food Centre, 01-60
Hass Bawa Mee Stall, Marine Parade Food Centre, 01-150
My Cosy Corner, Coronation Shopping Plaza, 587 Bukit Timah Road, 02-02
968 Popiah, 81 Whampoa Drive, 01-893
Miao Sin Popiah, Balestier Market, 01-06
Zheng Yi Hainanese Beef Noodles, 47 Tai Thong Crescent
Authentic Hock Lam St Popular Beef Kway Teow, 6 North Canal Road
Hai Nan Xing Zhou Beef Noodles, 22 Toa Payoh Lorong 7, 01-06
Feng Zhen Lor Mee, Taman Jurong Market & Food Centre, 03-146
Yuan Chun Famous Lor Mee, Amoy Street Food Centre, 02-80
Xin Mei Xiang Zheng Zhong Lor Mee, Old Airport Road Food Centre, 01-116
Selamat Datang Warung Pak Sapari, Adam Road Food Centre, 01-09
Riyan Hidayat Satay Solo No. 31, Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre, 01-31
Inspirasi Stall, Bedok Interchange Food Centre, 207 New Upper Changi Road, 01-11
This article was first published on November 8, 2014.
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