A great catch
The main signboard declares "No milk added", but I decide to quizz Madam Ng Siew Heng about her fish head bee hoon anyway.
"There is no way anyone can get this old-school Cantonese flavour if they use milk," she replies.
I am reminded of Chinatown's Terengganu Street and the roadside stalls in the 70s and early 80s.
Back then, using milk for fish noodles was unheard of and perhaps a bit of a blasphemy - like using ketchup with fine French food.
One spoon of Madam Ng's soup and I am convinced she has been selling it for years. But her son, Mr Allan Lee, tells me that their stall, known as Mr Fish, has been around for less than two years.
The bank IT specialist spends at least four days a week (he works night shifts) helping his parents at the stall.
Now, he knows how to "lai" or "drag" the wok instead of the elbow grease method of "tao" or tossing it, which requires a lot of arm work.
For the Cantonese food aficionado, the three important factors affecting the quality of a dish are the stock, the art of the wok (or wok hei), and freshness of the fish.
The stall's fish stock comes thick, sans milk, and is collagenous with a light brown tone. Mr Fish uses fish and pork bones fried over high heat till "perfectly seared and roasted" (which only an expert can tell) before water and seasoning is introduced. It turns milky and has that mild roasty aroma.
Mr Fish's other best seller is the bitter gourd fish collar or yu kai foo kwa done with tau cheo and black beans. Indeed, Mr Fish's version of the dish is by far the best I've tried.
The bittergourd slices have what the Cantonese would call the "golden" taste, and they are juicy and crunchy.
I also requested that roe be added. The fish is first deep fried, before it is tossed in the wok and sauced up.
Mr Lee later tells me that he plans to work at the stall full time as "this is my new calling".
Hooray, for food culture and continuity.
#02-073, Chinatown Market Complex,
Block 335, Smith Street
10am-4pm (or till sold out)
Closed on Sundays (but will specially open for TNPS readers today)
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.