Photo: The Straits Times
In my view, when it comes to breakfast, Singapore is a city that offers the best of both worlds.
Here, we have the option of grabbing a bagel or a cup of yogurt topped with granola and berry compote to go, or heading to a hawker centre for everything from roti prata to fried bee hoon.
On dreary days, I find a bowl of oatmeal drizzled with honey as satisfying as a hot bowl of soupy noodles.
Last week, on a morning that threatened to rain, I wander into Albert Centre in Queen Street in search of the latter.
I notice empty green bowls at many tables and decide to join the three-person-long queue at Hock Lee Fishball Noodle.
The stall serves fishball noodles, dry or in soup, with a choice of noodle.
I opt for dry mee pok with chilli and vinegar. The noodles are served with a separate bowl of fishballs in soup. For $4, you get eight fishballs.
If you think the portion of noodles in the photo looks a little measly, that is because I specifically ask for less.
I tuck into the noodles first. My mee pok is cooked perfectly – al dente. Ah, wonderfully springy. The mildly spicy chilli that coats each strand of mee pok is decent too. I want to stop and move on to the fishballs, but it takes me another three mouthfuls of noodles because I find the blend of oil, chilli and vinegar so pleasing.
Then, I try a fishball. Now, I begin to understand the empty green bowl phenomenon I had witnessed earlier.
You see, it is the fishballs that are the highlight here.
The odd-shaped balls have good texture – they don’t spring back unnaturally after each bite and are just bouncy enough. They are light on salt and less floury than some factory-made versions.
It’s nice that the soup is not salty too. Garnished with spring onions and coriander, it is clear, light and comforting. Add cut red chilli and light soya sauce for more flavour.
It is 9.15am. I look up and see 15 people in the queue – retirees, office workers, youngsters.
I’m glad I had noodles over oats for breakfast last Thursday and that I had chanced upon another stall I would eat at again in a heartbeat.
HOCK LEE FISHBALL NOODLE
WHERE: 01-102 Albert Centre, 270 Queen Street
OPEN: 6.30am to noon (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays
This article was first published on The Straits Times.