We made a short trip down south to Singapore a couple of weekends ago. It was almost a “Touch & Go” trip… we were there to watch the Lion King musical (which was totally so enjoyable!) and the rest of the time was just to eat and shop.
As we were staying with my good friend CH who graciously hosted us at her lovely condo in Amber Gardens, we just had to walk over to East Coast Road where a few of Singapore’s famous Katong Laksa outlets were located. It was a 12-minute walk from the condo to 328 Katong Laksa, located at the junction of Ceylon Road and East Coast Road.
We were there pretty early on a Sunday morning … tables were aplenty, so we chose to sit right in front of the laksa stall just to be in the thick of action. There are frames of photos and write-ups hung all around on the walls as a testimony to their fame and popularity. We placed our orders – all we had to say was whether we wanted Small (SGD4), Medium (SGD5) or Large (SGD6) servings. You don’t have to scratch your head to decide on your choice of noodles, because there’s only one type of noodles served.
Watching the laksa handlers, there was a precise clockwork system to their procedures so it wasn’t surprising that service was super fast and we had our steaming bowls of laksa in front of us in a matter of minutes. Thick rice noodles were used. These are the dried type which had been soaked and blanched in hot water. They are all broken up into short strands and you can actually eat them just using a spoon and I saw most of the locals doing just that. However, chopsticks were still provided and they do come in useful to pick up the slivers of fishcake, prawns and cockles in the bowl.
The laksa soup is rich with coconut milk, cooked with a scrumptious Nyonya-style paste of turmeric, lemongrass, coriander seeds, galangal, chillies, shallots and belacan (shrimp paste). All these spices give the soup its soul and the distinctive taste and texture of pounded dried shrimps in it set this laksa apart from the usual types and hence, its fame. Oh, the other one critical differentiating influence is the spoonful of chopped Vietnamese coriander leaves – “daun kesum” or commonly known as “laksa leaves” which is placed on top of the noodles and which you have to stir and mix into the soup… and then, wow… the wonderful fragrance of these laksa leaves lift the flavours to a new height. It’s “damn shiok”, really.
Add in more sambal if you want a more fiery experience. They are quite generous with the cockles too… so, cockle-lovers, rejoice!
I was observing the other patrons and most of them ordered the Otak-otak as well to go with their noodles. So, trying to be “kiasu” (after all, we were in Kiasu Land), we also ordered a few pieces of those banana leaf-wrapped parcels.
We unfolded the banana leaf to reveal a thin paste of mashed fish fillet mixed with the same concoction of spices that went into the laksa soup… turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, chillies etc. The practice is to dunk these otak-otak into the laksa bowl and slurp them all up together with the noodles. What a delicious combination, I must say! (sometimes it pays to be a bit kiasu). That otak-otak is pretty addictive – we ended up ordering more and an extra bowl of laksa to go with it!
We spied a competitor right across the street – the other famouse rival – 49 Katong Laksa (lots of stories about the rivalry have been spun) and were quite tempted to walk over and sample that as well. But after the extra bowl of laksa we had at 328, that feat has to be postponed to another time.
328 Katong Laksa
No.51 East Coast Road