If you’re an Eastie, too, you’ll know why the East is lauded as ‘the best area’ in Singapore. The East is littered with all sorts of treasures that are almost too many to count. From famous hawker gems to trendy cafes to well-loved restaurants, there is something to cater to your every foodie whim. So, when I discovered that Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle was located in the secluded and far away Pandan Gardens, I was torn.
On the one hand, there is nothing I love more than a gratifying bowl of Teochew fishball noodles. But on the other hand, it meant venturing beyond the borders of my beloved East of Singapore. Even so, my dedication for hawker gems remained steadfast, and I made my way to Ah Hua Teochew Noodles Fishball Noodles.
Ah Hua Teochew Noodles is one of those old-school units that sit under a block of flats. The area is spacious that boasts plentiful seats that are often frequented by regulars in need of their fix of fishball noodles.
Ah Hua Teochew Noodles is helmed by the affable Mr Lim Jia Hua and his spunky daughter Jean Lim. You’ll often find Mr Lim hard at work in the kitchen, sweating over the stove and churning out bowl after bowl of Teochew fishball noodles for hungry customers.
Jean manages the ‘front-of-house, taking orders while chatting and laughing with customers.
I had a chance to catch him in between bowls for a quick chat and was surprised to find out that Mr Lim took a few turns before arriving at where he is today. It all started at the tender age of around 13 or 14 years old when Mr Lim was working in a noodle-making factory, helping out his father.
Unfortunately, the factory closed down. Mr Lim then went into the fishball-making industry for a total of 23 years. Emboldened by the many years of experience, Mr Lim decided to start selling fishball noodles again. Everything went swimmingly for a while; he even had a couple of island-wide outlets and a central kitchen.
Before long, things got tough again. This was where daughter Jean came in. Jean shared that her Dad is very much the strong and silent type and would often keep problems to himself for fear of burdening his children.
It got to a point where Mr Lim was almost about to close his stall and give up on the business for good. However, Jean couldn’t bear all her father’s hard work going down the drain, so she would come down after work to lend a hand. As the unofficial PR and marketing team for Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle, Jean would keep customers happy and smooth over any kinks that arose.
Not only that, but Jean was also an accountant by trade. Aside from cleaning up Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle’s business accounts, she also modernised how they took orders by using buzzers. Admittedly, this was met with a little resistance at first, especially from the older folk, but it helped the kitchen manage large orders and streamlined workflow.
After sufficiently scouting the place out, I was ready to sink my teeth into all that Ah Hua Teochew Noodles had to offer.
What I tried
Jean served me one of their signature items, the Homemade Fuzhou Fishball With Rice Needle Noodles (S$3), commonly known as lao shu fen.
Unlike your run-of-the-mill Teochew noodles or bak chor mee, what you have is a rather monochromatic bowl.
What the bowl lacks in colour it makes up in terms of flavour. Here, you get a couple of your usual suspects with a few surprises thrown in. From tender minced meat to delicate folds of herh keow to less commonly seen fish ‘rulers’, there’s even wrapped fish rolls with carrot and cucumber.
Jean suggests a couple of slivers of fiery bird’s eye chilli sans the sauce soy sauce to turn up the volume on this bowl of Teochew Fishball noodles. Jean explains the soy sauce spoils the flavour of the sauce, and as a stickler for rules, I happily complied.
This was an exceptionally tantalising spoonful with crackly bits of fried lard, slippery noodles, and piquant heat from the chillies. There were even salty bits of dong cai (preserved cabbage) scattered throughout the noodle that made every morsel all the more scrumptious.
A play on textures and flavours, this was different and indeed unlike any Teochew fishball noodles I’ve tried before.
We’ll begin with the herh keow. These crystalline dumplings require a little more dexterity than your average wanton. Fish paste is kneaded together with tapioca flour and skillfully folded over a mixture of tee por (dried sole fish) and minced pork.
The mark of a good herh kiao is in the bounciness of the gossamer-like envelope and juiciness of the filling. If kneaded too long, the skin can get rubbery, and trust me, and you won’t want that.
Delicate and bursting with flavour, there is a reason these dumplings are shaped like little ingots. You’ll be rifling through the noodles for the last of these herh kiao‘s. Every Teochew stall has its own unique style when it comes to herh kiao and in terms of flavour, these knocked it out of the park. You’ll appreciate and savour the skill and effort that goes into each dumpling.
If you let the dough for herh kiao sit out a little longer than desirable, it dries up and can’t be pleated into herh kiao‘s anymore. Temperamental, I know. But sometimes, hissy fits don’t always have to be a bad thing.
With a tighter and firmer texture, the fishpaste becomes a little more malleable. Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle wraps their fishpaste around julienned sticks of cucumber and carrots. Crunchy with the same winning fish paste, this rendition was refreshing as it was tasty.
If vegetables aren’t your thing, these fish ‘rulers’ will have to do for now. These have a more pronounced flavour and have quite a delightful mouthfeel. They are a smidge salty, but it was something I was willing to overlook.
As for the meatballs, they are made with a mixture of meat and fish. Naturally, therefore, they’re a little bouncier than your average meatball, with a unique texture. Not to mention, these unevenly shaped orbs are a tell-tale sign that Ah Hua Teochew Noodles makes their meatballs by hand—the ultimate brownie point for sure.
As for their fishballs, these gleaming spheres are everything a fishball should be—soft, springy with a dash of homemade goodness. A bite of these, and it was worth every stop on the MRT to get here.
Of course, if you are a traditionalist and you need your Mee Pok Tah (S$3), Ah Hua has got you covered. As simple and down-to-earth as they come, you have a mess of mee pok with minced pork, large sizeable pork lard cubes and a tangy and spicy sauce.
Charmingly old-school and uncomplicated with lashes of ketchup, vinegar and carefully doled out spoonfuls of fragrant lard, you’ll want for nothing more.
After having a tête-à-tête with Jean and Mr Lim, you’ll realise that they are truly salt of the earth. It is also worth noting that Jean also dabbles in the kitchen as well. She tells me, “It’s so hot, I understand why Dad has ‘blackface’ most of the time”. Indeed, Jean acknowledges that the hawker trade is not the most glamorous; sticky, stressful and waking up at ungodly hours seems to sum it up best.
But to Jean, the satisfaction is unlike any other, especially when customers praise her cooking or first-time customers become regulars. Her toughest critics are not any food reviewers but a bunch of her Dad’s longtime friends. Intimidating, to say the least, it took Jean many months to have the confidence to cook for some of his friends. When she finally did, Jean tells me it was a nerve-racking moment. To give you an idea, Jean tells me a tasting from Gordon Ramsay is nothing compared to this.
While she has earned approval from some of her Dad’s friends (a feat in itself), there are one or two ‘Uncles’ she has yet to cook for. “Too scary,” she laughs, and I concur. However, the pride and earnestness that oozes from every pore of Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle will be reason enough for a visit. Utterly committed to their craft and customers, Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle is a real gem.
I dare say I’ll be back.
Expected damage: S$3 – S$6 per pax
Our Rating: 5 / 5
Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle
415 Pandan Gardens, #01-117, Singpaore 600415
Ah Hua Teochew Fishball Noodle
415 Pandan Gardens, #01-117, Singpaore 600415