THE latest crop of Singapore Hawker Masters have emerged, but diners will have to wait until March to taste food from two of the six winning stalls.
Yuan Chun Famous Lor Mee and Piao Ji Fish Porridge are in the famous Amoy Street Food Centre, which is closed for renovation.
However, that still leaves the winning beef noodles, Indian mee goreng, popiah and mee soto stalls for foodies to seek out and compare with their personal favourites.
Yuan Chun’s owner Koh Hock Ann, 53, who is taking a break during the closure, believes that it is the lor mee’s authentic recipe and hae cho (fried prawn rolls) that outshone his rivals.
He took over the stall from the previous owner earlier this year, and spent four months mastering the lor mee recipe and sells about 400 bowls a day.
“The recipe has not changed at all,” he said. “Nowadays, not many stalls have hae cho in the lor mee. I start making it from 4.30am every day, three hours before the stall opens.”
He was one of the six Hawker Masters who were lauded on Thursday night at an intimate award ceremony at Far East Square.
Away from their stalls, the hawkers mingled with each other, as well as with the 100 guests at the event at which Professor Tommy Koh, ambassador-at-large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was guest of honour.
Guests tucked into a sumptuous buffet spread, which included the dishes from four previously crowned Hawker Masters such as the famous Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice.
The annual search for Singapore’s best hawkers is organised by The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao.
The hawker hunt, now in its fifth year, kicked off in late August, with more than 600 nominations received from the public. More than 2,000 readers cast their votes to determine the finalists for each category.
A panel of eight judges then made their rounds of the finalists in each category to decide on the winners.
This year’s judges were Prof Koh, food consultant and restaurateur Violet Oon; Mr Steven Yeong, chief operating officer and director of restaurant chain River Inn Group; Mr Dennis Wee, chairman of real estate agency Dennis Wee Group; Mr Chia Boon Pin, president of Far East Food Concepts; Ms Tan Hsueh Yun, ST food editor; Mr Wong Ah Yoke, ST food critic and executive sub-editor; Lianhe Zaobao zbNOW food correspondent Marcus Yeo.
Mr Danny Yeo, assistant vice-president of branding and promotions for Singapore Press Holdings, said: “The decisions on who would be named Hawker Masters winners were mostly unanimous, although there was a tough fight between two stalls in the lor mee category.
“This competition is also great for finding ‘hidden gems’. We embarked on this search to give deserving hawkers national recognition and we hope that it will spur them to keep up food standards.”
Zheng Yi Hainanese Beef Noodle in Tai Thong Crescent won in the Beef Noodle category.
Mr Roy Phua, 46, who runs the stall with his mother, Madam Hong Siew Fong, 74, calls her a “master of beef noodles”.
He said: “It is all about the gravy. You need to get the right texture so that it ‘sticks’ onto the noodles.”
Prof Koh said: “The six winners are all master chefs. The awards have helped to raise their social status, and I hope that we will also succeed in raising their incomes so that these hardworking people will be able to make a decent living.
“Singapore’s hawker food scene is very vibrant, and, given a choice, Singaporeans from all walks of life and of all age groups will choose to eat hawker food.”
The Straits Times/Lianhe Zaobao Singapore Hawker Masters 2014Category A – Lor MeeYuan Chun Famous Lor MeeAmoy Street Food Centre #02-80Opening Hours: 7.30am – 2.30pm (Closed Mon & Tue)*Amoy Street Food Centre closed for renovation till 28 Feb 2015Category B – Beef NoodleZheng Yi Hainanese Beef Noodle47 Tai Thong Crescent, Kin Seng CoffeeshopOpening Hours: Mon – Fri: 10am – 7pmSat: 10am – 6pm (Closed Sun and PH)Category C – Mee GorengHass Bawa Mee StallBlk 84 Marine Parade Central Market and Food Centre, #01-150Opening Hours: 12nn – 9.30pm (Closed Wed)Category D – PopiahMy Cosy CornerCoronation Shopping Plaza #02-02Opening Hours: Mon – Sun: 10am -7.30pm (No popiah on Sun)Category E – Fish SoupPiao Ji Fish PorridgeAmoy Street Food Centre, #02-100Opening Hours: 10.45am – 3.45pm (Closed Thu)*Amoy Street Food Centre closed for renovation till 28 Feb 2015Category F – Mee SotoRiyan Hidayat Satay Solo No. 31Serangoon Garden Market and Food Centre #01-31Opening Hours: 11am - 9pm (Closed Mon)
Please visit http://www.soshiok.com/tags/hawker-masters to see past years' winners.