At a busy stall in The Food Place, a foodcourt in Raffles City Shopping Centre, fish soup is not done the usual way with fish slices dipped in batter and fried till crispy and golden brown. But the yummy fare is drawing queues.
Mr Peter Shih Sin Chai, 49, who runs Chai’s Fish Soup with his wife, Ms Nelly Halimm, 48, is a sushi chef who also does private cooking. The 49-year-old would only say that he applies the principles of Japanese cooking and merely dips the fish in beaten egg and then deep-fries it. The result: Without a flour-based batter, the fried fish remains crispy for about two hours. It is not soggy even when it is left in the soup for quite a while. The fish is fried in batches so it tastes good.
Dory fish is used for the fried version and wild toman or snakehead for the fresh fish slices. The fresh fish is well seasoned and quite chunky. To eat both fresh and fried fish, go for the bittergourd double fish thick bee hoon ($5) or No. 4 on the menu. That is my favourite. You can opt for thin beehoon (rice vermicelli) or yee mee (fried egg noodles) at the same price. The bittergourd that comes with it is thinly sliced but firm to the bite. The thick beehoon version is good as it is not overcooked and goes well with the fish. The yee mee is a viable alternative as it lends a nice aroma to the broth.
I also like the version with salmon, about five to six thin big slices for $6. It would have been more enjoyable if the fish was not slightly overcooked though. If you like bittergourd to go with it, pay 70 cents more. Eggs which are fried till wispy are added to the soup, giving it an extra layer of bite and flavour. If you want more of it, get a separate serving for $1.
When you place your order, you will be asked if you would like evaporated milk to go with the fish soup. For me, the broth tastes better with milk added. But what really impresses is the soup – not full-bodied but, nonetheless, tasty. Apparently, it is cooked with fish bones, ginger, ikan bilis and yellow beans, and left to simmer for about eight hours. That the stall can sell 400 to 600 bowls of fish soup a day is testament to how popular the food is, and deservedly so.
Where: The Food Place, 03-15/16/17 Raffles City Shopping Centre, 252 North Bridge Road
Open: 10am to 9.45pm daily
A version of this story was originally published in The Straits Times on November 17, 2015. For more stories like this, head to www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle.