As someone who ‘critiques’ food from time to time, food courts, in theory, and for glorious wordplay, seem like the best places to pass judgement on food. However, you know it, and I know it; the grub at food courts inevitably falls into that category of food that’s just above edible and scraping by on average. Still, there are some unexpected finds like Tekong Island Fish Soup that one stumbles upon from time to time. Not the usual famous hawker franchise or generic Western food but with a name that incites a somewhat passionate reaction for anyone that served National Service.
That afternoon, it was clear that COVID-19 did not slow down our incessant need to shop, for Takashimaya was, and is, still the bustling heart of Orchard Road. A food court that’s a flurry of activity is always a good sign, though seats might be a little bit of a challenge. While we may have evolved to scanning safe entry with the simple tap on our iPhones, it seems like the tissue chope system still endures.
What I tried
There is a kind of reverence when it comes to fish soup in Singapore. Fish soup is an evergreen kind of dish that aims to soothe when the going gets tough and is an even better salve when one is under the weather. Interestingly, this fish soup at Tekong Island Fish Soup takes a left turn from what we are used to.
The stall owner actually lived on Tekong Island before the government cleared it for basic military training. So, where many reminisce about their army days slogging on the island, Irwin Ng of Tekong Island Fish Soup thinks of the island as a place where his grandparents used to fish.
Sensing the crowd at Takashimaya swelling as the afternoon carried on, I bought my fish soup and proceeded to slurp at what might arguably be one of the most popular comfort foods. The meal starts with one of their speciality Double Fish Soup Noodles (S$8 regular, S$10 large). As the name suggests, you get two types of fish here, a sliced Indonesian batang and a fried tilapia.
The broth here is lighter than what one would expect. While we are used to the intoxicating and milky quality of fish soup where liberal amounts of evaporated milk have been added. Here, the broth is clear but still flavourful enough for you to take seconds. Not to mention, the soup is laced with collagen. While I’m not too convinced of its efficacy, I’d like to think that my cheeks might have looked a little plumper after I finished the soup.
As for the fish, the Indonesian batang was fresh and sweet, falling apart with the slightest bit of effort. Of course, the more curious selection would be the fried tilapia that comes with a vivid orange-yellow coat courtesy of a turmeric coat.
Turmeric is not an ingredient that you find often in fish soup, given its rather intense flavour profile. It was different for sure, but a rather palatable change to sometimes bland fried fish batter one usually gets from the fish soup.
Then, things get a little more exciting with the Tom Yum Double Fish Soup Noodles ($8 regular, $10 large). I don’t have to tell you how much we adore tom yum in the throes of the Singaporean foodscape. Spicy, tangy, and fragrant, there is no better satisfaction than sweating along to this flavour. There are such high hopes for such a flavour, but unfortunately, this bowl didn’t deliver as promised.
Tom yum is a seemingly simple flavour, but it is a careful balance of sweet, sour, and spicy. These flavours here are a little lopsided, with more emphasis placed on sourness and less of the spiciness. It’s not a bad bowl by any means, but perhaps Tekong Island Fish Soup needs a little bit of tweaking and fine-tuning with this one.
As a closing into my deep-dive into Tekong Island Fish Soup, I decided on the Hand Made Fish Bites ($6 regular, $8 large). These flaky, breaded numbers were tasty, succulent and everything a fish stick should be. These were by no means life-changing but if I ever find myself in the Takashimaya food court, I know what I’ll be ordering.
We do have a high regard for any dish that tides us through our most difficult days. Fish soup is not the dazzling, flashy star of the party but the steady tide that carries us through rain or shine.
With Tekong Island Fish Soup, they do swim against the current a little but not so much that they get lost in it. They are a respectable and yummy option that is a cut above the rest from the unremarkable options at a food court. A spot that will make me a little less judgy about food court fare for sure.
Expected damage: S$6 – S$10 per pax
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