SINGAPORE - Seventeen hawker stalls have been given the Bib Gourmand award in the inaugural Singapore Michelin Guide, and they include well-known stalls such as Song Fa Bak Kut Teh in New Bridge Road, Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Road Food Centre and Balestier Road Hoover Rojak at Whampoa Market Place.
The Fishball Story in Timbre+ and A Noodle Story in Amoy Street Food Centre, run by young hawkers, were also singled out for praise.
Amoy Street Food Centre had four stalls on the Bib Gourmand list. Apart from A Noodle Story, Famous Crispy Curry Puff, Hong Kee Beef Noodle and Hoo Kee Rice Dumpling were named.
Tiong Bahru Market had two stalls: Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice and Hong Heng Fried Sotong Prawn Mee.
Whampoa Market Place had two. Aside from Balestier Road Hoover Rojak, there is Liang Zhao Ji, selling duck rice.
These stalls make up half the 34 eateries that were given the Bib Gourmand, an award for places which serve quality food at affordable prices. In Singapore, the meals must cost no more than $45.
Ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh, who has been a judge for Singapore Hawker Masters, an annual search for Singapore's best hawkers organised by The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, said: "As a champion of our hawker food, I am pleased that the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore 2016, contains so many of our favourite hawker dishes.
"I am also pleased that two of the winners of the ST-LHZB Hawker Master Chefs competition, namely, Tian Tian chicken rice and the Hoover Rojak are on the list."
The award category was introduced in 1955. The award is named after Bibendum, the nickname for the Michelin Man.
The list of Bib Gourmand eateries was released on July 14, a week ahead of a gala event on July 21, during which the restaurants who have received Michelin's coveted one, two and three stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore will be announced.
Other restaurants on the Bib Gourmand list included Bismillah Biryani in Dunlop Street, and zi char eateries such as JB Ah Meng and Sin Huat Eating House in Geylang.
Hjh Maimunah in Jalan Pisang, which serves nasi padang; Ka Soh in College Road, famous for his fish beehoon and prawn paste chicken; Kok Sen in Keong Saik Road, where people flock to for stuffed yong tau foo and other zi char dishes; and New Ubin in Sin Ming Road, which updates zi char with ribeye steak and rice fried with fat from the beef, also made the cut.
Restaurants include Peranakan restaurant True Blue in Armenian Street, Yhingthai Palace in Purvis Street and Zaffron Kitchen in East Coast Road.
The restaurants cover 19 types of cuisine, ranging from Indian to Cantonese to Turkish.
Mr Azman Kamis, 56, owner of Malay satay stall Wedang which closed its 13-year-old stall at Golden Mile at the end of last year and moved to Aljunied two months ago said: "I'm very happy with winning the award and feel very encouraged. I hope to do better in the future and bring back my Mee Rebus dish, which I have not been selling since the move because my current stove layout doesn't allow it.
"But rest assured I will not increase the price of the food, as I believe that food should always been affordable."
Mr Low Ah Leng, 52, co-owner of Liang Zhao Ji Duck Porridge and Rice, is encouraged by the win, but still pessimistic about the future of his business because his two sons and one daughter do not want to take over the stall "because they say it is hard to be a hawker".
He adds: "Nowadays, I sell only about 20 ducks and then go home. Sometimes I am done at 2pm. I don't intend to sell any more because who is going to help me?"
While some fans acknowledge the hawkers are worthy of the recognition, they also worry that the impending deluge of curious diners will lead to longer waits for their favourite dishes.
Liang Zhao Ji's customer, Ms Angela Kho, 37, patronises the stall every week. The programme co-ordinator said: "The gravy is tasty, and the chilli is nice too. I'm not surprised that they won an award because it is really the best duck porridge in Singapore. The drawback is that the queue will be even longer than usual."
And it looks as if tourists will now discover the hawkers too, thanks to the guide.
Mr Jared Saldoian, 28, a tourist from the United States, who was queuing up at Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, says: "My strategy on buying hawker food in Singapore is to buy from stalls with the longer queues and this guide will help me identify which stalls that are worth queuing up for."
The Michelin Guide is an offshoot of French tyre company Michelin. It was launched in 1900 in a bid to increase the sale of cars and, therefore, tyres, by showing French motorists where they could go for good food.
Its inspectors assess 40,000 restaurants across 24 territories in three continents. In Asia, Singapore is the latest to have a Michelin Guide, after Japan, Hong Kong and Macau.
For more Michelin stories, go to http://str.sg/45iV
Additional reporting by Kenneth Goh, Benson Ang, Eunice Quek and Ankita Varma