We planned for breakfast together this morning. Then breakfast became brunch.
Our choices for an in-between meal were wide at Tiong Bahru market. This is our first visit since it was renovated thus it was familiar and strange at the same time.
The old stalls seem to be still around: chicken rice, wanton noodles, roasted pork and duck, zhui kueh... Some others didn't ring a bell but they might have been there before.
HG had zhui kueh, which are rice cakes topped with fried turnips. They were the famous Jian Bo variety.
My food of choice was Teochew fishball noodles. Should I have mee pok (flat yellow noodles) or kway teow mee (flat rice noodles mixed with round yellow noodles)? Decisions, decisions...
This yummy bowl of mee pok ta (dry flat yellow noodles) comes with 3 fishballs and slices of fish cakes, in white and orange. It's been years since I had orange-coloured fish cakes. When I was a child, I used to love a little stall at the Toa Payoh Lor 8 market that sold Teochew noodles. That stall changed hands almost 2 decades ago.
This noodle stall at Tiong Bahru has an unassuming sign. All it says was "Teochew Noodles Dry/Soup". It doesn't have stickers proclaiming endorsements by food programmes or foodie gurus. The ingredients were simple too: no minced pork or liver or dumplings. The noodles were lovely because they were simple.
As I gave my orders to the stall assistant, I noticed that there was a man working at the back. He was making fishballs!
The little fishballs this stall dished out were odd-shaped, unsymmetrical and slightly gray. Not the large, round and white ones that my mother-in-law buys for my children. They had a different sort of bounce as I chewed on them. They were hand-made, that's why. Made by mixing fish meat, flour, salt, sugar and water until they reach the right texture, to be squeezed by hand and scooped up with a Chinese soup spoon. Piece by piece, he made those buckets of fishballs.
When I finished my bowl, I went back to the stall and asked if I could take a picture. They asked where I was from - as if I was a curious tourist. In a way I am, I guess.
Seemed that nobody noticed the man at the back. The man, whose queue I interrupted to take a picture, immediately took out his camera from his pocket when he realised what happened and snapped too.
The man making the fishballs was the boss, I was informed. So he is a "crouching tiger, hidden dragon".
My friend M said how funny it is our emotions are tied to a place. Today, I realised that my memories are tied to the food I eat. Isn't this funny too?