Rediscovering Katong Laksa

By Cindy Liu

Like Hainanese chicken rice or chili crab, laksa has long been considered a defining signature dish of the Singapore id.

Derived from the Persian term for noodle (lakhsha), laksa contains thick chewy rice noodles served in spicy coconut milk soup packed with substances such as cockles, large prawns, and sliced fish cake.

Other varieties available in Singapore include the sour and spicy fish soup-centered asam laksa—a signature dish of Penang—and Sarawak’s thin vermicelli laksa served in a flavourful broth manufactured from chili, shrimp paste, herbs, spices, and coconut milk, topped off with rooster and prawns.

But in Singapore, it is Katong that is household to this tantalizing dish. In simple fact, both of those Katong and laksa are manifestations of the splendour of the country’s multi-ethnicity.

Katong Laksa

Laksa served at the 328 Katong Laksa.

Peranakans, or straits-born Chinese, are very well-acknowledged for their fancy and advanced cuisines.

It is explained that prior to the popularisation of Peranakan restaurants in Katong and Joo Chiat—where lots of Peranakans initially resided, imprinting their culture on the area—it would be deemed shameful by Peranakans to dine out at a Nyonya restaurant. Nyonya, occasionally also spelled nonya, is the term for female Peranakans, when male Peranakans are acknowledged as Baba.

“If you want to eat nonya food, you come to my dwelling. You do not go to a nonya cafe. The greatest foodstuff is always in my house–that was the attitude,” according to the e book Joo Chiat: A dwelling legacy.

So, if you have the prospect, try out a Peranakan family’s house-cooked laksa. In any other case, the most reliable Katong laksa is arguably Janggut-style laksa.

The Original Katong Laksa, also acknowledged as Janggut Laksa at Queensway Procuring Centre.

Janggut is the Malay term for beard. It was the nickname of the laksa hawker who had a few hairs rising out of a mole underneath his chin.

Currently, the well known Janggut Laksa stall in Queensway Purchasing Centre is mentioned to be operate by Janggut’s family.

But how did Janggut start out generating laksa?

Additional than 70 yrs ago, Janggut learnt how to prepare dinner laksa from the Peranakans dwelling in Katong. He later on married a Nyonya girl who was the daughter of one of his consumers.

Laksa served at The Initial Katong Laksa.

The Katong laksa Janggut invented was so delightful that it shortly rose to fame.

The thick rice noodles are reduce into tiny parts so that you can very easily scoop up a spoonful of all the elements with no the require of chopsticks.

And certainly, if you ever stop by Janggut Laksa at Queensway Purchasing Centre—or its other outlet, The Primary Katong Laksa at Roxy Square—for a bowl of comforting laksa, you are going to recognize that no chopsticks are offered, only spoons.

‘Laksa War’

In the late 1990s, a “laksa war” began in Katong when each and every stall in the space started declaring that its laksa was the closest to the first. Posters were being place up and stall staff members even called out to passers-by to boost their picture of getting the most authentic.

Subsequent a period of intense level of competition, only 3 survivors remained: The Primary Katong Laksa, 328 Katong Laksa, and No. 49 Katong Laksa, which has due to the fact closed for superior.

The Initial Katong Laksa (also recognised as Janggut Laksa) caters much more toward the Peranakan Nonya palate. The loaded and creamy laksa broth is made up of shrimps, cockles, and fish cakes. In comparison to the standard laksa readily available in food stuff courts, it is creamier, significantly less spicy, and stronger in flavour owing to a generous aiding of coconut milk. If you delight in Peranakan foods, you will come across its taste quite agreeable.

The curry rooster at The First Katong Laksa is an additional favourite of its patrons.

Curry rooster served at The Primary Katong Laksa, an additional favourite of its patrons.

The other surviving popular laksa brand name, 328 Katong Laksa, serves hearty bowls of laksa noodles with a generous serving of substances which include shrimps, cockles, bean sprouts, and fish cakes. You can also style the fragrance of the hae bee (dried shrimp) in the soup. The broth is spicier, but a lot less thick as effectively. It is really flavourful, and customers who prefer less coconut milk will locate its laksa soup very well-balanced.

Which one is your favorite?