Thursday, July 24, 2014

Taiping Fish Porridge in Johor - A Tale of Two Boys and a Giant Garoupa

When you are fifteen, the last thing a Singaporean boy would think of doing is to run a fish porridge stall with his even younger sibling all by themselves for an entire day.

But that is exactly what the two lads at this delicious Taiping Fish Porridge in Johor Bahru is doing every single day. And without fail.

Their godfather would come early in the morning to prepare the fish and handle most of the cooking. Once the food is done, he will usually take his leave to tend to his other errands.

For the rest of the day, the two lads literally operate the stall on their own, under the watchful eye of their uncle who owns the coffeeshop.

Looking at them, it is amazing to think that they are still kids, and where other children of their age will be still hanging around in MacDonalds and shopping malls, they are hard at work serving customers throughout the day.

This would be moot if the food they are serving is not up to scratch, and guess what? The fish porridge is simply brilliant. It is the kind of fish porridge I often dream about but can never find in Singapore. It is a pity that I have to cross the causeway to fulfil my fish porridge nirvana. And boy, does it take you places!

Giant Garoupa Fish Porridge

We elected for the biggest portion and it only cost us 70 ringgit. It was almost a steal at this price. Served in a piping hot claypot with a generous amount of fish and porridge, the visuals and fragrance had me totally engaged.

The fish used was a giant garoupa, and you can even opt for a cheaper version using snapper instead. But trust me, the garoupa is the way to go. The fish pieces were insanely huge and the skin of the garoupa is almost like agar agar, with its jelly like texture.

The broth had a fresh ocean sweetness that was both comforting and possessing depth at the same time. Enriched with additional clams to give that extra tinge of natural sweetness, this is a fish porridge that is rich in flavour and heartwarming to the core.

The giant garoupa meat was a bit more dry and leaner than usual, but immersed in the tasty broth and coupled with a fill mouthfuls of the well cooked porridge, it was more than fulfilling.

Garoupa Fish Soup

We were also treated to a bowl of giant garoupa fish soup minus the rice grains. Despite the lack of starch, there was a singular clarity of flavour that can brighten up the even darkest of days with its triumphant broth.

The same natural sweetness, the same freshness of the fish and the comforting notes of every spoonful will bring a smile to even the most jaded of diners. Coupled with the Teochew bean paste dip, it brought just enough acid and balance to coat the fish meat with.

Fifteen, Honest and Humble

As for the elder boy, he is only fifteen this year. His honest, cherubic and adorably likeable face betrays a youthfulness that he has to sacrifice in order to eke out a living for himself. He only lacks the strength of an adult to carry out the more strenuous of tasks within the stall.

Hardly muttering a word, he goes about his work with a sense of diligence that only a mature adult can possess. And he guides his younger brother with a paternal instinct that is both touching and inspiring.

Come to think of it, I wouldn't really mind traveling a long way just to see this pair of darling teens and savouring their beautiful fish porridge again.

In fact, the whole experience was simply beautiful.

Taiping Fish Porridge
Xin Xing Kopitiam
31 Jalan Perkasa 4
Taman Ungku Tun Aminah
Johor Bahru

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