Judging for the annual Singapore Hawker Masters awards began on Friday, with the panel of judges starting by tasting fish soup.
The finalists included 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.
There are four finalists for the fish soup category because two stalls received equal votes. The other categories - Indian mee goreng, popiah, beef noodle, lor mee, and mee soto - all have three finalists each.
At each 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 - the soup's flavour as well as the freshness and texture of the fish.
There was a clear favourite - which will be revealed when the Hawker Master awards are announced at an upcoming award ceremony.
Over the next few weeks, the judges will sample food from the top stalls in the other five categories. The finalists were 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 panel of eight 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; Ms Tan Hsueh Yun, Straits Times food editor; and Mr Wong Ah Yoke, Straits Times food critic and executive sub-editor.
Prof Koh said: "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."