Above: The neat corner of Je Hiang fishball kiosk amidst the gruff-looking dilapidation of Bo-Be Market Saphan 4 in Bangkok.
Something extraordinary is happening in a bowl of the simple-looking fishball noodle at Je Hiang where – importantly patiently and mostly quietly -people are waiting in line for hours (or if you are lucky – a little less) for just a bowl or two of her staple. In our case, being a novice, we weren’t quite sure what to do, so we were there at noon, one hour before the curtain lifted. But it was all worth it.
Above: Hand-made fishballs – pre-cooked.
I saw the picture of a fabulous fishball noodle soup from a Bangkok-based Japanese food writer (@thaifoodwriter) and, upon seeing the delicious-looking texture of the fishballs, I saved the image into my wishlist. It was not until last week that we got a chance to venture to Bo-Be Market Saphan 4 (map below) that we finally learnt what the fuss is all about. Je Hiang – being about 70 years old herself – is, in fact, the second generation fishball maker who inherited the arts from her father. She told me this place has been running for about 80 years or so.
Above: Hue Huay – fried fishball, Bt70 each.
If you check the geotagging of my IG feed below, you will see that Je Hiang location is in fact read “เจ๊เฮียง รอยันลูกบวช” – meaning this fishball dame takes her time to serve that your son might grow up to be old enough to be ordinated as a novice monk (about 7 years of age) before you get to eat.
Je Hiang is open daily (but you should call in advance just to recheck) from 13.00 – 16.00, but the queue starts to form as early as noon, with the earliest person sitting down at the first seat in line. Je Hiang is now running this shop with her sister who normally comes to the kiosk prior to Je Hiang to set up the stove (using charcoal) and all things needed in a noodle shop. Je Hiang, when she makes her appearance, would be with a giant pot of the most-prized and most-coveted hand-made fishballs, stewed pork stomachs and sometimes, when the sisters have enough time, with deep-fried pork belly, too.
From my front-row seat, I witnessed how Je Hiang meticulously prepares each bowl. She has different soups in two large pots. The soups are all pork-based. She quickly boils the noodle, adds some soy sauce, then pours hot soup over the noodle again perhaps to warm and awaken the noodle. She serves a bowl with a mixture of clear and a small portion of the very peppery soup she carefully ladles out from the pork stomach pot. The final soup combination is clear and salty, with a high note of fragrant pepper (quite similar to the famous Nai Ouan Guay Chap shop in Chinatown, read about my walk in Bangkok Chinatown here). Refreshing on its own without needing any extra condiment. The taste leans heavy on saltiness, though, just so you know.
But the highlights are the fishballs. Nothing but the fish meat kneaded to a perfection. If you like fishballs anywhere before, try Je Hiang’s (both the round ones and the stringy fried one pictured above) which I for me is the best I ever tried in Bangkok.
The takeaway is available only from 16.00 onwards when dine-in customers thin out. It is always a good idea to call Je Hiang in advance and place a pre-order. That’s what we will do the next time.
P.S. Bo-Be is a long-standing wholesale market in Bangkok for clothing, fabrics and all things in bulk. This is another colourful scene one can observe the wholesale trading in Bangkok.
Above: Details of Je Hiang’s goodies and contacts. The entrance of Bo-Be Saphan 4 Market with its back next to the train tracks.
Je Hiang: daily from 13.00 – 16.00, T: 084-361-7146.
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