MELBOURNE | Hawker Chan is a chain of hawker-style restaurants with outlets across Asia, and now Australia. Touted as “the world’s cheapest Michelin stared meal”, Hawker Chan specialises in soy chicken, char siu (barbecued pork), roast pork and pork ribs. Its a partnership between Singaporean chef Chan Hong Meng, founder of the original Michelin Star awarded Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Sinagpore’s Chinatown Hawker Centre and Hersing Culinary, a private equity company that specialises in helping brands like Meng’s grow (they’re also behind Tim Ho Wan’s expansion).
There was a lot of hype behind Hawker Chan because of the whole Michelin Star thing, but of course it’s only the original that has a Michelin Star and a quick look on the internet shows that the quality of the food can vary depending on when and where in Asia you’re having it. For this reason I waited several months to let the Hawker Chan find its groove in Melbourne before paying it a visit.
The space is no-nonsense 92-seat venue that’s been designed to resemble a typical hawker set up. You go to the counter at the back to order your food, grab a number, and find a table. When your number is called out you go up and get your food. It’s simple and efficient and it works. The menu is very simple, and based upon the original with a few minor adjustments for local tastes. There’s the famed Hong Kong soya chicken-rice, and a version with noodles instead of rice. There’s also pork ribs, roast pork belly, and char siew, available with rice, thin noodles, or thicker rice noodles. There’s also a few sides – seasonal steamed vegetables with garlic and peanuts, soya bean sprouts, Thai-style tofu, and wonton soup.
When I visited with a friend around 7pm on a Friday night I was excited to try a few things on the menu. Unfortunately there was no pork available which meant it was chicken and a few sides. The char siu and ribs would have to wait for another day but I was happy to try the soya chicken, and compare it to the original I’d enjoyed in Singapore a few years prior. The food here is very affordable – $6.80 for the chicken with rice, and $8.80 with noodles but serving sizes are very small. For a quick lunch it’s perfect but if you’ve got an appetite you’ll probably want to order two things.
The noodles are very tasty, as is the rice – they both go great with the Chan’s famous soya sauce. The chicken, while tasty, isn’t as good as it used to be. It sits in a marinade overnight, before being braised the next day. The flavour is good, but on the occasion I visited, the skin was soft and chewy – not at all crispy. Vegetables and bean sprouts are simple, and very tasty.
While I can’t comment on the pork dishes, when it comes to the soya sauce chicken Hawker Chan is unfortunately a situation where my initial apprehension proved correct. The food is perfectly fine, not bad at all, and if you’re in the mood for a cheap eat and aren’t super hungry then it’s a good option. Perhaps a return on a day when the rest of the menu is available is in order, but for now, once you take away the Michelin star hype and marketing,Hawker Chan is simply one of many affordable Cantonese food spots in Melbourne’s CBD, and doesn’t cut it with the best.
157 Lonsdale Street
Telephone: (03) 9650 8808
Sun – Sat: 10:00am to 10:00pm