SINGAPORE - Fifty hawker stalls and restaurants have made it to the Bib Gourmand list for this year's Michelin Guide, up from 38 last year. Among them are 17 new stalls, and five have been dropped from last year's list.
Among those new on the list are mutton soup Chai Chuan Tou Yang Rou Tang in Bukit Merah View Food Centre, Chuan Kee Boneless Braised Duck at Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre, Fresh Taste Big Prawn Noodle at Zion Riverside Food Centre and Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff at Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Centre.
New restaurants on the list include Sik Bao Sin in Geylang, an air-conditioned offshoot of zi char place Sik Wai Sin, also in Geylang. The Coconut Club in Club Street, which serves nasi lemak, made the list, as did Muthu's Curry in Little India.
Dropped from the list are Peony Jade, Shish Mahal, 328 Katong Laksa, Liang Zhao Ji Duck Rice and ramen restaurant Tsuta.
The Bib Gourmand list recommends places that offer good value meals. Restaurants to be awarded stars will be announced at the launch of the guide, to be held on July 25 at Resorts World Sentosa. This is the third year of the Michelin Guide Singapore.
The inspectors cast their nets wider in drawing up the Bib Gourmand list, visiting popular haunts such as Ghim Moh Market & Food Centre, Zion Riverside Food Centre and Bukit Merah View Food Centre.
Those living in the eastern part of Singapore will either cheer or rue the list.
Observers have pointed out that few quality eating places there have made the list. This year, the inspectors gave the east some love, picking hawker stalls at Old Airport Road Food Centre and Fengshan Market & Food Centre.
Mr Bren Tham, who runs Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff, told The Straits Times that he was shocked but very honoured that his brand has been recognised.
"It is a local stall that was being passed down by my dad and I hope it can be recognised not only locally but even regionally as well," said the 43-year-old.
His 78-year-old father, Mr Tham Niap Tong, used to have two stalls in Tanjong Pagar and at Serangoon Gardens, but had to close the latter after Chinese New Year this year as he was getting on in age.
"I grew up helping my parents from young. It is in my blood. If we are not going to continue a traditional trade like this, people will lose out on the taste passed down from the older generation," added the younger Mr Tham.
Mr Kasivishvanaath Ayyakkannu, chief executive of Muthu's Currinary which owns Muthu's Curry, said that he was very surprised and happy after reading the news online at about 10am.
"The award is recognition for what we have done so far and serves as motivation for us to do even better," said the 47-year-old, who is the eldest son of the founder of Muthu's Curry.
"I am very excited about the award and hope it will translate into sales. I am confident we can meet any increase in demand for our food as we have a central kitchen that produces our sauces," he said.
He added that the pressure is on to meet the expectations of new customers who may now want to dine at the eatery because of its Bib Gourmand award.
His younger brother, Mr Srinivasan Ayyakkannu, 40, the director of operations of Muthu's Currinary said: "We are very happy with the award. But we also remember what our father used to tell us: 'No matter where you go in life, keep your feet firmly on the ground.'
"We have to stay humble and keep doing what we are doing, which is providing good food and service in a nice ambience for our customers."
The Coconut Club's chef and partner Lee Eng Su, 39, said that he started receiving calls from friends, such as food blogger Leslie Tay of website ieatishootipost.sg, on Wednesday morning.
"My first thought was worry, because now our lines may be filled with international customers and locals might take longer to get a table," Mr Lee said.
However, the chef of 15 years added the news was still quite exciting. "The Michelin Guide is a well respected document of good food. To be in it is an honour," he said.
"Nothing changes for us because the work we do every day is about our own goals. Taking care of our staff, looking after our families. None of the work we do is for the Bib Gourmand," he added.
Business developer Audrey Lim, 24, who was eating at The Coconut Club with a friend from Switzerland on Wednesday, said: "I have been here three times and I usually bring my friends from overseas. I don't think there is anywhere else with comfortable seating and good nasi lemak."
She added: "I'm happy that they are listed in the Bib Gourmand. Maybe they can open more stalls and I won't have to queue for seats."
Sik Bao Sin owner and chef Desmond Chia, 50, said that he was not expecting to win the award as he had only started his eating house five years ago.
He added that long-time customers of his father's Sik Wai Sin Eating House were the ones who encouraged him to start his own eatery back then so as to carry on his father's tradition. His father retired in 2013.
"I'm focused on serving my customers the best food with the best taste that I can come up with," he said, adding that he started learning how to cook from his father at 20 years old.
Mr Chia's 50-year-old wife, Mrs Joanna Chia, said that she found out about the news from Facebook.
"This is a wonderful surprise to mark our fifth anniversary. My brother was the first to message me at 9am. I went online to check the news. I was thrilled and immediately told my husband," she said.
Mr Chia added that he had been in disbelief. He said: "I asked my wife several times if she was sure she read the news correctly. I was overwhelmed. My wife told me my hard work paid off."
While he is aware that expectations from customers would likely go up, he said that all he can do is "to keep moving forward and doing my best".
He added: "I have been trained to take pressure of demanding customers and a full crowd. I am the only chef in the kitchen, so I hope my customers will be understanding if their waiting time increases when we get more customers."
Regular customer of Sik Bao Sin, Mr Chew Thye Chuan, said he works in Woodlands but is willing to make the trip to Geylang once or twice a month. "That should tell you how much I like the food here. It is inexpensive and offers good value for money," said the 66-year-old who works in the beverage industry.
"I am quite confident Sik Bao Sin can maintain its quality of food (even after winning the Bib Gourmand) because it has been very consistent since it opened," he added.
Over at Lao Fu Zi Fried Kway Teow in Old Airport Road Food Centre, stallowner Tan Lee Seng said that his mother, Madam Kuah Quat Keow, started the stall 30 years ago. She died last year at age 71.
"I am very happy I won this award but also very sad that my mother is not here with me to share the joy of this win. The credit for the award goes to her as she started the stall and taught me everything about it," said Mr Tan, as his eyes reddened.
Mr Tan, who decided to help out at the stall full-time when he was 29, added: "She told me if I wanted to be a hawker, I must cook well and make sure customers are satisfied with my food."
New entrants on Bib Gourmand 2018 list
1. Chai Chuan Tou Yang Rou Tang
Address: 115 Bukit Merah Central, #01-51, S150163
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday (11am to 1.30pm), closed on Sunday
2. Chuan Kee Boneless Braised Duck
Address: 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-161, S270020
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday (10am to 8pm)
3. Eminent Frog Porridge & Seafood
Address: 323 Geylang Rd S389359
Telephone 9842 2941
Opening hours: Daily (4pm to 4am)
4. Fresh Taste Big Prawn Noodle
Address: 70 Zion Rd, S247792
Opening hours: Monday to Friday (6pm to 11.30pm), Satuday and Sunday (12pm to 1am)
5. Heng carrot cake
Address: 500 Clemenceau Avenue North, #01-28, S229495
Opening hours: Daily (5pm to 1am)
6. Hong Kong Yummy Soup
Address: 7 Maxwell Road, Amoy Street Food Centre #01-18
Telephone: 6221 1155
Opening hours: 10am to 4pm (Monday to Saturday, closed on Sunday and public holidays)
7. Lao Fu Zi Fried Kway Teow
Address: 51 Old Airport Rd, #01-12, S390051
8. Lian He Ben Ji Claypot Rice
Address: 335 Smith Street, 02-197/198/199, S050335
Telephone 6227 2470
Opening hours: Friday to Wednesday (4.30pm to 10pm), closed on Tuesday
Address: 138 Race Course Rd, #01-01, S218591
Telephone: 6392 1722
Opening hours: Open daily (10.30am to 10.30pm)
10. Outram Park Fried Kway Teow
Address: 531A Upper Cross St, S051531
Telephone: 6225 5632
Opening hours: Open daily (7am to 9pm)
11. Rolina Traditional Hainanese Curry Puff
Address: Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market and Food Centre, 6 Tanjong Pagar Plaza, #02-15, Singapore 081006
Telephone: 9234 0521
Opening hours: Open daily (9am to 2pm)
12. Shi Wei Da teochew porridge
Address: Fengshan Market and Food Centre, Blk 85 Bedok North Street 4, #01-236, S460085
13. Sik Bao Sin (Geylang Road)
Address: 592 Geylang Road, S389531
Telephone: 6744 3757
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday (11.45am to 2.30pm, 5.45pm to 9.30pm), closed on Monday
14. Sin Kee Famous Cantonese Chicken Rice
Address: 40 Holland Drive, S270040
Telephone: 8428 7865
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday (11am to 4pm), closed on Monday
15. Tai Wah Pork Noodle
Address: 531A Upper Cross St, #02-16, S051531
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday (9.30am to 7.30pm), closed on Monday
Address: 6 Ann Siang Hill, S069787
Telephone: 6635 2999
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday (11am to 3pm, 6pm to 9.30pm), Sunday (11am to 3pm)
17. Tiong Bahru Yi Sheng Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
Address: 6 Jalan Bukit Merah, #01-13, S150006
Telephone: 9862 9296
Opening hours: Wednesday to Monday (3pm to 10.45pm), closed on Tuesday
Additional reporting by Hedy Khoo and Clara Lock