singapore: ion center food court, li xin fish balls
So hawker stands aren’t your thing, what can you do? Well, you’re in luck! Singapore’s love of food is evident even in the high-class malls of Orchard Rd. Ion Orchard Center is maze like mall on Orchard Rd with a large food court (Food Opera) in its basement (B4). The food court has a set of Singapore’s “favorite” hawker dishes selected from a few choice outlets. The prices may be a bit higher than elsewhere, but still very affordable considering.
Grace and I were particularly excited to check out the Ion Center food court because while at the wedding in Hong Kong, we heard from a friend that the fish balls at Food Opera were not to be missed. So never one to dismiss food hunting advise, Grace and I made a point to stop by.
It was still early and the food court was relatively empty, but Li Xin Teochew Fishball Kway Tiao Mee (Noodles) already had a line. In the back of the small stall the fish balls were being made. The yellowtail meat was blended into a paste and then filled into a large mixing device. When ready, the machine drops the formed balls out from the bottom into a vat of cold water. Every so often the fish balls are moved to different cold water baths to be chilled, but never frozen.
Considering the menu really consists of one item, there are a lot of choices. The fish balls can be ordered alone or with noodles; and the noodles can be dry or in soup. Then there are 6 choices of noodles: some best dry, others best in soup. Teochew fish balls are classically served in soup with a rice noodle. But in Singapore, its most popular form is with a dry egg noodle in a spicy sauce with the fish balls on the side. So not to let either feel left out, we ordered one of each.
The fish ball in noodle soup is very good, but the noodles are a bit of an after thought. The fish balls are the stars. They are gently flavored with a smooth taste.
But it’s the texture that’s a marvel. They have an amazing bounce and if rubbery were ever a compliment it would be here.
The dry noodles are a completely different experience. The fish balls come along in a separate bowl of soup.
The noodles are topped with a sweet and spicy sauce. The egg noodles are nice and chewy and mixes well with the sauce. Mixed into the noodles are bits of fried lard which burst with a juicy (fatty) pop. Alternating bites between the flavorful noodles and bouncy fish balls is a game of balance. In the end, the hardest decision is which bite to save for last.