Making fishballs isn’t easy. “Yeah right, tell me something I don’t know” I hear you say. But I am actually 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 speak with fishball sellers, they all tell me that fishball is essentially, fishmeat (in Singapore Yellowtail fish is the most commonly used) that has been minced, mixed with a bit of salt and 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.
Well, I tried beating the fishpaste extensively but my fishball eventually came out rather toothy rather than having that lively bounce that we all enjoy. To be sure, when I threw it onto the flour, it did bounce, so I was rather pleased until I bit into it and realize why they tell me it is not easy to make fishballs. Back to the drawing board!
Anyway, the reason I am trying to make fishball is just purely for experimentation purpose only. The money I spent on the fish plus the time spent can hardly be justified. It’s better just buying good fishballs from hawkers who still bother to make them by hand.
One of the stalls you might find this is right here in Toa Payoh Lor 5. This 2nd generation hawker still insists on beating their own fishballs from pure yellowtail fish meat. It’s amazing that they managed to cramp so many machines and troughs of fishballs into such a small space. In order to get the fishballs ready for the next morning, they start making the fishballs at 3 am in the morning. I was invited to come see how it is all done, so one day I hope to shoot a video of the whole process!
Needless to say the fishballs here are very very good. It has got the right balance of bounce and taste that you don’t get with commercially produced fishballs. The additives and fillers they use in the commercial ones often means sacrificing taste for a more bouncy texture. 4.5/5
Aside from the fishball, they have a limited stash of Her Giao (Fish dumplings) which they also make themselves. The difference between commercially made Her Giao and handmade ones is even more stark. The Her Giao here is excellent. The skin has that slimy mouth feel and the meat filling is soupy and savoury. 4.75/5. I am not sure if they serve Her Giao to only those who ask for it. They have buckets of fishballs, but only a small bowl of Her Giao, so I suspect they only give it if you specially ask for it!
The noodles here are not for those who are eating fishball noodles because it is a healthier alternative. They are very generous with the lard and fried shallots here so the noodles can hardly be considered a light meal. I like the chilli here as it is wonderfully shiok as they add Buah Keluak to it. It might not be for those who crave for the pain and subsequent release of endorphins that is produced by really hot chilli paste, but for me it was excellent, although it does get a bit jialak (too oily) at the end.
I realized that I have not been blogging as much about fishball noodles as I have about bak chor mee, so I aim to correct the imbalance. This is one of the best stalls for fishball noodles that I have had so far, where else would you all recommend?
Song Kee Fishball Noodles