Image: Lam's Abalone Noodles in Race Course Road
Twelve eateries, comprising hawker stalls, cafes and restaurants, have been recognised in the inaugural Singapore Food Masters 2016, an islandwide food hunt.
The winners are categorised into four zones - North, Central, East and West - with three in each category.
Each eatery also picked a representative dish for the food hunt.
The winners include Hanwoori Korean Restaurant in Serangoon Garden for its Budae Jeongol (army hotpot); Authentic Mun Chee King Of Pig's Organ Soup in Jalan Besar for its offal soup; Roast Paradise at Old Airport Road Food Centre for its Hakka-style noodles with char siew; and De' Beer Garden Restaurant in Kranji and Sunset Way for its Flaming Chicken, which comes flambed with Chinese rice wine.
The results were announced on Oct 14 at an award ceremony in Chinese restaurant Ah Hoi's Kitchen in Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore. About 120 guests, including food and beverage professionals, readers and sponsors, attended the event.
The food hunt is sponsored by the Lam Soon Group - best known for its Knife brand cooking oil - and liquefied petroleum gas company Union Gas, in partnership with Singapore Press Holdings' newspapers.
The 12 winners were chosen by a panel of six food and beverage professionals, including chef Forest Leong of one-Michelin-starred Forest restaurant in Resorts World Sentosa and Ms Hedy Khoo, who writes the recipe column in The New Paper.
The judges ate incognito at the eateries over three weeks. Judging criteria include the taste of the dish, service standards, cleanliness of the eatery, value-for-money and whether the the dish has healthier alternatives.
The judges picked the winners from a shortlist of 40 eateries - 10 from each of the four zones.
The 40 eateries were selected from an initial pool of 124 hawker stalls and restaurants selected by a public vote over four weeks that ended in August.
More than 17,000 votes were received via SMS and the Singapore Food Masters website.
One of the judges, Dr Teo Hark Piang, 40, executive director of Union Energy Corporation, found it "tough" to select the top three eateries from the list of 10 in the Central zone. It took him four rounds of eating to pick the winners.
He was impressed with Lam's Abalone Noodles in Race Course Road. He says: "The noodles are chewy and come in good portions and I was impressed by the service. The staff went around asking diners how the food was when I visited the place during lunch."
Another judge, Ms Ng Yimin, 35, a correspondent with Chinese- language daily Lianhe Zaobao, who picked the three winners in the North zone, says she made a food discovery through the hunt - Rong Cheng Bak Kut Teh in Sin Ming Lane.
She says: "I like the peppery stock, which is not overpowering and has a slight sweetness."
Chef Leong, too, was surprised to discover new food haunts when judging the eateries in the West zone, where she has lived for 20 years.
One of them is San Laksa Steamboat in Telok Blangah. The 47-year-old says: "This shop offers a unique style of steamboat. The laksa stock is not too rich but very flavourful and its flavours remain after cooking the ingredients in it."
She adds that competition among the finalists was keen, with the eateries offering quality food with good presentation and at affordable prices.
"It is great to have so many eateries in Singapore that offer a wide variety of food at any time of the day," she says.
For more information on the winners of Singapore Food Masters 2016, go to www.sgfoodmasters.com.
The original version of this story was published in The Straits Times on October 14, 2016.
If you liked this, check out 5 affordable crab feast promotions to indulge in or 11 food places to satisfy your late night cravings in Singapore