Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Want healthier hawker food? Try fish soup.

Mei xiang black & white fish soup
Mei xiang black & white fish soupST PHOTO: REBECCA LYNNE TAN

Let's face it, eating healthily at hawker centres can be tough.

So, in a bid to stick to my New Year's resolution of #eatclean, which has more than 49.3 million posts on Instagram, my go-to dish is often sliced fish soup.

It is a healthier (but not healthy) option.

I suppose it doesn't help that my order usually comprises both fried chunks and fresh slices of fish.

Mei Xiang Black & White Fish Soup at Berseh Food Centre in Jalan Besar is one stall that does the fried and sliced fish soup version well.

It serves its fish soup with rice (right, $6 a serving or $8 for a larger portion with more fish).

  • MEI XIANG BLACK & WHITE FISH SOUP

  • 02-44 Berseh Food Centre, 166 Jalan Besar; open: 11.30am to 3pm or until sold out (Sundays to Fridays), closed on Saturdays; dine-in only, bring your own container for takeaway

    Rating: 3.5/5

Prices used to start at $4 a bowl when I began eating there about eight years ago.

I usually pop in for my fish soup fix whenever I am in the area.

The flavour of the soup has always been consistent and the fish fresh.

No milk is added to this cloudy, comforting and robust soup that is made with a base of fish bones. It also has strong flavours of ginger and a mild sweetness, which comes from the fish bones and napa cabbage.

Each bowl comes with deep-fried ribbons of egg and pieces of sweet napa cabbage that have absorbed all the flavours of the soup.

Chunks of fish are fried to an appetising golden brown. I like that the batter is light and does not have that greasy, rancid aftertaste common at other stalls.

Dip the fish slices in the stall's tangy chilli sauce for extra kick.

Many diners question the appeal of food that has been fried to a crisp only to be served in a broth.

For me, fried fish provides textural contrast to the firm and smooth fresh slices of fish. I usually alternate each mouthful with fried and sliced fish.

Plus, I love how the texture of fried fish changes the longer it is soaked in the soup - it gets spongier, but only up to a certain point, after which it can't absorb any more liquid.

The queue can extend to about 10 people during the peak hour of between noon and 1pm, so try to be there early.

Oh, and remember to bring a container if you want yours to go - there is no takeaway option here.

• Follow Rebecca Lynne Tan on Twitter @STrebeccatan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'Fishing for healthier hawker food?'. Print Edition | Subscribe