By Cindy Liu
Like Hainanese rooster rice or chili crab, laksa has lengthy been viewed as a defining signature dish of the Singapore id.
Derived from the Persian word for noodle (lakhsha), laksa contains thick chewy rice noodles served in spicy coconut milk soup packed with ingredients these kinds of as cockles, significant prawns, and sliced fish cake.
Other types offered in Singapore incorporate the bitter and spicy fish soup-centered asam laksa—a signature dish of Penang—and Sarawak’s thin vermicelli laksa served in a flavourful broth made from chili, shrimp paste, herbs, spices, and coconut milk, topped off with hen and prawns.
But in Singapore, it is Katong that is household to this tantalizing dish. In fact, the two Katong and laksa are manifestations of the splendour of the country’s multi-ethnicity.
Laksa served at the 328 Katong Laksa.
Peranakans, or straits-born Chinese, are perfectly-regarded for their extravagant and complex cuisines.
It is explained that prior to the popularisation of Peranakan eating places in Katong and Joo Chiat—where several Peranakans at first resided, imprinting their society on the area—it would be thought of shameful by Peranakans to dine out at a Nyonya restaurant. Nyonya, sometimes also spelled nonya, is the phrase for female Peranakans, even though male Peranakans are recognized as Baba.
“If you want to eat nonya foodstuff, you appear to my residence. You do not go to a nonya restaurant. The finest meals is often in my house–that was the attitude,” according to the ebook Joo Chiat: A residing legacy.
So, if you have the chance, check out a Peranakan family’s household-cooked laksa. If not, the most genuine Katong laksa is arguably Janggut-design laksa.
The Primary Katong Laksa, also acknowledged as Janggut Laksa at Queensway Shopping Centre.
Janggut is the Malay phrase for beard. It was the nickname of the laksa hawker who experienced a couple of hairs escalating out of a mole underneath his chin.
Today, the well-known Janggut Laksa stall in Queensway Searching Centre is explained to be run by Janggut’s spouse and children.
But how did Janggut begin building laksa?
Extra than 70 yrs ago, Janggut learnt how to prepare dinner laksa from the Peranakans living in Katong. He afterwards married a Nyonya woman who was the daughter of one particular of his prospects.
Laksa served at The First Katong Laksa.
The Katong laksa Janggut invented was so delectable that it shortly rose to fame.
The thick rice noodles are slice into compact items so that you can easily scoop up a spoonful of all the components without the need of the will need of chopsticks.
And of course, if you ever pay a visit to Janggut Laksa at Queensway Procuring Centre—or its other outlet, The First Katong Laksa at Roxy Square—for a bowl of comforting laksa, you are going to recognize that no chopsticks are presented, only spoons.
In the late 1990s, a “laksa war” commenced in Katong when each and every stall in the space started proclaiming that its laksa was the closest to the unique. Posters ended up put up and stall staff even known as out to passers-by to market their impression of currently being the most reliable.
Next a period of powerful competition, only three survivors remained: The Primary Katong Laksa, 328 Katong Laksa, and No. 49 Katong Laksa, which has because closed for good.
The Primary Katong Laksa (also acknowledged as Janggut Laksa) caters far more to the Peranakan Nonya palate. The rich and creamy laksa broth consists of shrimps, cockles, and fish cakes. Compared to the regular laksa accessible in food stuff courts, it is creamier, a lot less spicy, and more powerful in flavour due to a generous supporting of coconut milk. If you enjoy Peranakan food items, you will come across its flavor really agreeable.
The curry rooster at The First Katong Laksa is an additional favourite of its patrons.
Curry rooster served at The Primary Katong Laksa, one more favourite of its patrons.
The other surviving well known laksa manufacturer, 328 Katong Laksa, serves hearty bowls of laksa noodles with a generous serving of substances like shrimps, cockles, bean sprouts, and fish cakes. You can also flavor the fragrance of the hae bee (dried shrimp) in the soup. The broth is spicier, but fewer thick as nicely. It is extremely flavourful, and prospects who favor much less coconut milk will discover its laksa soup well-balanced.
Which a person is your favorite?