In this day and age, a lot of things including food are machine made. So it’s a rare find something that is still done the traditional way—by hand. This week, Dr Leslie Tay takes you to a fishball noodle stall whose owner still beats his own fishballs by hand.
Making fishballs isn't easy. And I am telling you from personal experience. Yes, I have tried to come up with a recipe for fishballs and so far, I haven't been very successful.
When I talk to fishball sellers, they all tell me that the ingredients for fishball are essentially minced fishmeat (in Singapore, yellowtail fish is the most commonly used), mixed with a bit of salt before they are being beaten. You won't be able to produce that bouncy texture by just mincing it in a food processor. In order to get the protein strands to unravel and align to produce that bounce, the paste has to be beaten. In the past, the hawkers used to use their hands to beat the fish paste until it gets to the right consistency. So I thought I could easily beat fishballs at home. But despite beating the fish paste extensively, my fishball came out rather hard instead of having that lively, bounce texture.
Well, this stall at Toa Payoh Lor 5 is a second generation hawker who still insists on beating their own fishballs from pure yellowtail fish meat. In order to get the fishballs ready for the next morning, they start making the fishballs at 3 am in the morning when most of us are still in deep slumber.
Needless to say, the fishballs here were indeed very good! It had the right balance of bounce and taste that commercially produced fishballs lack. By using additives and fillers used in factory made fishballs, you often sacrifice taste for a more bouncy texture. Aside from the fishball, the stall also serves her giao (fish dumplings), which they also make themselves. However, I noticed that their supply of her giao is quite small so you may have to specially request for them. Taste wise, the difference between commercially made her giao and handmade ones is even more obvious. The her giao here was excellent. The skin had that slimy mouth feel and the meat filling was soupy and savoury.
The noodles here are also quite different. The stall was generous with the lard and fried shallots so the noodles could hardly be considered a light meal. I like the chilli here as it was wonderfully “shiok” as they added buah keluak to it.
This is one fishball noodle stall that I highly recommend!
See other reviews @ http://thehungrybunnie.blogspot.com
We had supper at 10 pm on a Tuesday night, which timing was neither here nor there, so we didn't think we'd have to wait very long. Wow were we wrong. Although the coffeeshop was only at a 80% capacity, our noodles still took about 40-excruciating minutes to arrive. They may have been swamped catching the d*** fish.
We were prepared to hate this place, being "allergic" to waiting and all, but the Fishball Mee Pok ($3.50) was actually worth the wait. Dotted with deliciously sinful cubes of crunchy lard, and balanced with a shrimp-y chilli, the noodles were excellent. The highlight was the fish dumpling, swaddled in a thin chewy skin and stuffed with a garlicky flavourful mince. I would return just for this alone. The fishballs, was a little heavier than I'd expected, but sufficiently springy and smooth in texture. The fried beancurd, stuffed with fish paste, was also homemade like the rest of the stellar toppings.
Because their fish dumpling (her kiaow) is the absolute best, be sure to order an extra bowlful of soup with these. You get greater margins of return that way.
I have never once tried their fishball noodles since their opening despite me staying just within walking distance. Each time I feel like eating it, the shop is just so crowded. Finally decided to try it to see what the hype was all about, and I regretted my choice.
Seating was limited; not many tables and filled up fast. Decided to just order and hang around to wait for a table. Was told that the food would take 30 mins to be served up. As promised, the food came quite promptly, so no complains there.
So how did this over-hyped fishball noodles taste?
Noodles (I ordered mee kia)
- So much oil that made the noodles look glistening, making it sickening to eat.
- Undercooked to the extent that it was hard when it should have been springy.
- Very nice texture and springy enough, but nothing special about the taste.
Fish dumplings (Her Kiaow)
- Skin was too chewy.
- Fish paste was too salty and tasted like the chef had a field day with MSG (I felt very thristy about 30 mins after eating)
I simply don't see the point in spending good money and waiting so long for this bowl of fishball noodles. I will never see myself returning to this shop again.