Dr Leslie Tay •
21 Nov 2011 • 249 reviews • 562 followers
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!