SINGAPORE - The popular Song Kee Fishball Noodles at Upper Serangoon Road, once crowned one of Singapore's Hawker Masters, has closed its doors.
In a surprise Facebook post on Monday (Aug 1), it said that operations at 532, Upper Serangoon Road ended on July 30 and thanked customers for their patronage.
The post has been shared close to 200 times, and commented on 85 times, mostly by fans lamenting the closure.
The stall was famous for its fishballs, fish dumplings and tau pok stuffed with fish paste, all of which were made from scratch from yellowtail fish.
But that commitment to quality may have been what caused its shutters to fall for the last time.
One of the owners, Mr Chua Poh Seng, 44, told Chinese daily Shin Min Daily News on Tuesday (Aug 2) that while business was good, manpower was short and the time-consuming labour of making thousands of fishballs by hand took its toll on his body.
"We have considered closing the stall two years ago, the main reason being that manpower is short," he told Chinese newspaper Shin Min.
"We have to make 2,000 fishballs, 400 meatballs and 1,000 fish dumplings a day, and that is very time consuming."
His hand is injured and his body often aches. "I can't even hold a can of Coca-Cola properly."
Mr Chua also told Shin Min that the popularity of the stall has meant that he had to mobilise his entire family to help out. He said that he is worried that that would affect the studies of his five children, who are all still in school.
He also cited the stall's irregular hours and expiring lease, which ends at the end of September, as reasons for the closure.
Mr Chua ran the stall with his two older brothers, Mr Chua Soo Meng and Mr Chua Soo Chai. It opened in Toa Payoh in 1966, before moving to Jurong East in 1989. Twenty years later, it moved to its Serangoon location. Their father, Mr Chua Keok Sip, retired in 2011.
The Straits Times (ST) food critic Wong Ah Yoke praised the handmade fishballs when Song Kee was named a Hawker Master for fishball noodles in 2013.
"Song Kee's freshly made fishballs have just the right bounciness and a distinct fish flavour. The mee pok is smooth, doesn't stick together and yet is not too hard either. The soup version is tasty too and I like the crispy bits of fried lard in it," he wrote.
The youngest Mr Chua told ST then that the stall sold about 400 bowls of noodles a day. He also said that his wife and kids help to clean the stall and wash dishes.
He told Shin Min on Tuesday that customers can to go stalls run by their relatives at Block 74, Toa Payoh Lorong 5 and Block 139, Simei Street 1.