Sunday, November 11, 2012

Yong Lai Fa Ji Shu - A Beautiful Fish Head Soup

When it comes to fish head dishes, it is always a challenge to find fresh tasting fish heads in Singapore, even in high class restaurants.

And most of the time, we will probably be taking fish head with curry and the reason is simple, curry is a great way to mask the fishy odor that tend to permeate most fish heads here.

The other thing that I have never been much enamored with is fish soup stalls in hawker centers and food courts, and it is because it is generally quite bad.

Most of the time, the soup is either bland or laden with MSG that spoils the natural sweetness of the fish stock, and again, the fish used is hardly the freshest around.

So, it was pretty much a delightful surprise when I was brought to this incredible fish soup stall in Aljunied and Macpherson that reinstalled my faith in this classic hawker dish.

The owner is Teochew, and is is mainly a husband and wife operation with an additional helper, and they only start during lunch hours, but will last until around 8 to 9pm at night.

The key difference here is the owners' dedication to picking out the best fish in the night and taking the effort to chop and wash the fish in the wee hours of the morning, which is quite a daunting task.

Fish Head Soup

While they do serve the usual fish slice soup, the main attraction is the fish head soup, which is amazingly generous and of course, incredibly fresh.

At just five dollars a bowl, the value that was served up was worth far more than that. The fish head itself was freshly sweet, and the the meat was firm and fell easily from the bones.

If you are lucky like we were, we also got bits of ball sacks which had that marvelous texture when you bite into it. Served with seaweed and some vegetables, this dish was simple and hearty.

The broth itself was subtle and light, and had no inkling of preservatives, so while it might not be as impactful, it certainly was refreshing. Perhaps a touch of pepper would just bring all the flavors out somewhat.

The Owner

The owner himself was a very affable and down-to-earth man, and talking to him was a delight. Explaining his earnest intention to make good fish soup dishes, he has a noble goal of making good food for his customers in order to provide for the family.

This reminded of the original intention of setting up hawker centers many years ago, when affordable and good food was made by everyday folks to serve to the average man on the street.

Over the years, commercialization and greed has taken over and allowed our street food culture to be prostituted to the big companies who are only interested in making money.

Thankfully, places like Yong Lai Fa Ji can still provide people with food at prices that holds up the original intention of hawker culture, and for that, we might not have too long either, as the owners will eventually retire and their food will be lost to the public forever.

For now, if you fancy a delicious and natural tasting fish soup for a meal, head over the Aljunied now.

Yong Lai Fa Ji Shu
Macpherson Food Centre
79A Circuit Road