Run by a middle-aged couple and their son in his twenties, Mei Ji Fishball Noodle at Geylang Bahru Market & Food Centre is an unassuming affair.
Conveniently located a stone’s throw from Geylang Bahru MRT station in an area served by throngs of buses, it is very accessible but I had somehow always missed it.
After identifying the stall, I did a quick recce of the hawker centre and the signs were good. There were 12 people already in line at the Mei Ji Fishball Noodle stall at a time when there was not a single other stall there with more than 2 people waiting.
Despite the time that such a long line would cost me, I was encouraged that the reward seemed to be something well worth the wait. My turn to order came within 15 minutes.
What I tried at Mei Ji Fishball Noodle
Your order of Fishball Noodles (S$3/S$4) or Mushroom Minced Pork Noodles (S$3/S$4) can be served with vermicelli, mee kua or macaroni. I opted for the S$3 bowl of their signature Fishball Noodles with the standard mee pok. To me, fishball noodles must be had with mee pok!
I don’t know how and I don’t know why but I ended up ordering one ‘dry’ bowl and one with soup. Okay, maybe I know— it was because every bowl of either type had looked so delicious as people ahead in the queue were served theirs.
The dry version contained 4 light and springy fish balls and several thin slices of fish cake, then topped with crispy fried onion and sliced green spring onions. These ingredients and the tangle of yellow mee pok beneath allowed small glimpses of the brown sauce at the base of the bowl that anchors this dish. The separate clear soup with scallions was fine but not particularly interesting nor aromatic.
Oh, but what a difference with the bowl of noodles! The rich gravy was bursting with flavour. As I tugged the noodles up with my chopsticks, they emerged glistening with a thin sheen of oil and speckled with the earth-coloured gravy. Some hawker stalls balance out the individual flavours from the varying ingredients very well and that is what I found here.
Every fishball was perfectly cooked and straddled the line between firmness and softness so every bite was a joy. I did not find the fish cake all that special but neither was it in any way deficient. All in all, this was a very flavoursome and enjoyable dish.
Done with the dry Fishball Noodles, I turned my attention to the soup-ed version. Perhaps I am biased but I feel the inclusion of soup dilutes the gravy, which I see as the essence of the dish. Despite the fact that the bowl contained exactly the same other ingredients as the dry version, I did not enjoy it as much.
However, it did develop a lovely punch after I dumped my two bowls of green and red chilli in soy sauce. I definitely would not have had the courage to add them to the dry bowl without the soup to act as a buffer. Regardless, I would still conclude that the wet version is also fully worth the S$3.
Mei Ji Fishball Noodle also serves Laksa (S$3.50/S$4.50) and I was very intrigued to try. However, after two bowls of fishball noodles, I simply did not have the digestive real estate to spare. Happily, that means that I can pencil in a return visit to this stall soon.
There is a very prominent sign at this stall’s front, just under the list of prices that reads “Self-Service”. I saw, though, that the young man who was taking our orders and handling payments was very happy to deliver trays of food to elderly patrons sitting nearby.
Heart-warming as that was, I did not let it affect my unbiased opinion of the food… which was excellent! It’s so wonderful to uncover little hawker gems all over our tiny red dot. We just recently wrapped up the Singapore Food Festival, and a significant portion of the efforts there were geared specifically to recognising exactly this kind of heartland culinary innovation.
Let’s be clear that Mei Ji Fishball Noodle is by no means a ‘hidden gem’; there was no let-up in the snaking queue in the hour or so I was there. Unless you are extremely fortunate, the odds are that you will have to wait longer than average to try their fare.
In my opinion, that is a small price to pay for the enjoyment that will follow. The visit to Mei Ji Fishball Noodle at Geylang Bahru Market & Food Centre was one of my favourite hawker experiences in the recent past and I urge you to give them a try.
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