Makansutra: Yeo family's fishball heritage
Yeo family's fishball stall one of the last four Orchard Road carpark hawkers left in Newton Food Centre
Should a fishball be soft and moist, or should it be firmer, the kind that feels more like a meatball?
What about those made with flour and starch to enhance texture and deliver a "perfect" sheen, look and shape?
Your answer should be "to each aficionado, his own".
The Yeo family has been in the fishball business for over 70 years.
The Teochew patriarch started it in Koek Road, and later moved to the iconic Orchard Road carpark opposite Cold Storage (now Centrepoint) or Gluttons Square in the 60s (where Orchard Central now stands). They were fishball heroes of sorts then.
Each fishball was handmade with salt and fish meat, hand-beaten and mashed till its protein was released and turned into a bouncy paste.
This was then squeezed through the palms, up and through between the index finger and thumb, into a fishball. The fishballs were then soaked in water to release the salt and retain its firmer texture.
"We still do this by hand today at our Bedok factory. That's the only best way we know," said Mr Yeo Song Teck, the second-generation fishball noodle master. He now runs the stall with his brother Song Seng.
The brothers are already in their mid-60s, with no successor in sight. When they retire, so will this slice of our "makan" heritage.
Soon Wah Fishball Kway Teow Mee
Newton Food Centre
500 Clemenceau Avenue North, #01-69
Closed on Wednesday and Sunday
Their stall is one of the last four Orchard Road carpark hawkers (many of them are street food legends) left in Newton Food Centre, where they relocated in 1978.
I remember eating at this stall then. The fishball was big, fat, plump, juicy and bouncy. It had a perfect middle ground texture between firm and soft. The level of saltiness had been tamed over the years for good reason, but not much else had changed.
The meepok was soft yet al dente, the kind I like, and was not drowned in a wet sambal.
The other star billing is their her kiao. This fish paste dumpling (a translucent skin made with fish paste and sweet potato starch) is filled with tee po powder (sun dried sole fish bones) and minced pork. I have heard of so many other "great ones", but this one gets my makan Oscar.
And yes "we also still handmake this her kiao", said Song Teck.
KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram