Singapore’s Secret Soup

Posted on October 16, 2010

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Chilli crab and chicken rice get all the glory in the guidebooks. But since moving to Singapore I’ve discovered its best-kept street food secret – fish soup.

Fish soup stalls abound throughout the city-state and some of the offerings are only ordinary. I think I was lucky the milky fish soup from Jin Hua Fish Head Bee Hoon in the Maxwell Food Centre was my introduction to the dish. Other versions I’ve tried have hit the spot, but they haven’t produced that eyes-closed comfort food feeling that the lovely lads at Jin Hua somehow always evoke.

One of my Singaporean colleagues, who has a penchant for cowboy boots and so can’t be taken too seriously, says Jin Hua is a great fish soup stall because of their generosity with the greens. It’s in the front row of stalls in the Maxwell Food Centre, one of Singapore’s famous eateries, a short walk from Chinatown and Tanjong Pajar MRT stations.

My favorite fish soup contains fish pieces in a delicious fried salty coating, tomato, greens (not the bitter gourd that seems to be the Singapore standard for the dish) and slices of galangal, topped with a spoonful of fried shallots and a shake of pepper. I find it’s less messy to order the soup noodle-free and ask for a bowl of rice on the side. However, the bee hoon noodles are fun. (Although not as entertaining to order as hor fun noodles).

Fish meat bee hoon contains the fried fish, which is dropped into the broth at the last minute. Sliced fish bee hoon, which I try to order more often than the fried version, contains slices of fish, cooked in the broth, and chunks of tofu.

The milky soup is my local comfort food, a must when my throat is scratchy or I feel under the weather. But at S$4 a bowl, I can afford to slurp it down even when I feel well. The stall is very popular, serving several versions of fish soup and fish porridge. Expect to queue.

But wherever you are in Singapore, if you see a sliced fish soup stall, give this secret soup a try. If you’re like me and no fan of bitter gourd, ask to have it omitted. Like all great street food, sliced fish soup is cooked in front of you, after you’ve ordered.

Jin Hua Fish Head Bee Hoon, #01-77 Maxwell Food Centre, Cnr South Bridge Road and Maxwell Road

(The full name of the stall is only written in Chinese characters. Look for the red sign that says, fish head bee hoon on one side and sliced fish bee hoon on the other.)

See what a famous Singaporean food blogger said about Jin Hua Fish Head Bee Hoon in a 2007 post here: http://ieatishootipost.sg/2007/12/jing-hua-sliced-fish-bee-hoon-ooommmph.html

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