Click here to listen to this week’s big, bold bouncing ball of fishy goodness!
Our dude with the food, Makan Guru KF Seetoh is back with a recent rediscovery of a fishball noodle stall that has been around forever – hawker legends that hail back to the original Orchard Carpark Hawkers (opposite Centrepoint) in the 1960s. They’ve been plying their trade for decades, doing things old school, the traditional Teochew way. On a recent jaunt to, of all places, Newton Hawker Centre (yes, a bit of a tourist trap, but admit it – there are still a handful of excellent stalls selling excellent food there!), Seetoh decided to try a bowl of fish ball kway teow soup at this stall he’d long forgotten about.
From a pail in which hundreds of dimply golf-ball-sized fishballs floated, the Teochew Ah Hia (big brother) scooped out a few, dumped it into the soup along with a few other choice ingredients and seasonings and served up a piping hot bowl of comfort to Seetoh. First things first, the soup – redolent with the heady aroma of fish bones, which have been roasted, blitzed and added to the stock along with seasonings, this soup is clear, not cloudy and is made even more delicious with a dollop of crispy fried lard bits, a sprinkling of spring onions and tang cai (savoury, pickled vegetable). Next, come the fishballs…
You know a fishball is good when it’s, in Seetoh’s words, “PIMPLY!” The dimply, dappled surface of each enormous fishball is testament to its handmade quality. No machines here! That’s why no fishball looks the same, each is slightly misshapen and yes, “pimply”! Pure fish meat is folded and shaped and kneaded so much so that lots of air (for bounce) and juices get trapped in – the flavour is locked in tight. On first bite, Seetoh noticed just how traditional these fishballs are – fishbones are blended into the fish paste so you get that added fine fishy powder and tiny crunchy bits of extra texture and taste.
And then, as if that’s not enough, next come the Her Keow (or fish dumplings or fish ravioli!). These fat, bulbous dumplings are folded expertly to encase a yummy morsel of meat within – no diet-sized, insipid, flat, all-flour-no-substance factory-made imitations here! These are slippery little nuggets of pure Teochew tradition – hand folded with a “skin” made from actual fish paste and a little bit of flour for resilience (in other words, it’s made from the same stuff as the fishballs!), with a minced pork and tee por stuffing. Tee por is a wonderfully umami ingredient – sundried, smoked sole fish bones that are either roasted or deep-fried, then pulverised into a magic dust that’s sprinkled everywhere for extra deep, smoky fish flavour.
And that, Makan Kakis, is why these guys are still legends. Don’t ever forget them. Seetoh says, “DIE-DIE MUST TRY!”, so head over this evening to Newton and rediscover Soon Wah Fishballs and Her Keow! Seetoh loves the kway teow soup, but for Denise, it’s got to be a bowl of mee pok tah (dry with lots of vinegar and chilli), and a bowl of fishballs, her keow and fishcake on the side. Heaven!
P.S. Read more about these fishballs and her keow on Makansutra.com!
Soon Wah Fish Ball Noodle
Newton Circus Hawker Centre
500 Clemenceau Ave North
Open 5.30pm-11.30pm, closed on Wednesdays and Sundays