Kicking off our first Tried and Tested story for 2010 is one of our much-loved national dishes – laksa. This fiery dish appears in various versions throughout Southeast Asia. From Indonesia to Malaysia to Thailand, each region has its own interpretation of this delectable dish.
In our tiny island state alone, there are at least two versions – the famous Katong laksa, which features cut noodles in a soupy gravy, and laksa in a thick broth, where the noodles are uncut, and the soup is more like a coconut curry base.
Whichever kind of laksa you favour, there’s no lack of outstanding stalls that serve them, as we’ve discovered in our search for the ultimate laksa. But among the best, we have a clear winner. Who is our pick for inSing.com’s favourite laksa stall?
Price: from $2.00
The good folks at Sungei Road Laksa deserve to be given our nation’s highest honour for the best laksa in Singapore, and their recipe declared a national treasure!
Just what makes the laksa here so awesome? Starting with the soup, it’s a faultless harmony of flavours. Made with a very fragrant rempah (spice paste), the soup was incredibly aromatic. There was lots of oomph from savoury dried shrimp, which gave lots of umami (savoury) flavours to the soup. The soup got its silkiness from a touch of coconut milk such that it was gently creamy, but remained light enough to slurp it all down without feeling ‘jelak’ (satiated).
We found the heat level to be just right, although chilli lovers could make it spicier by mixing in some sambal. The toppings of cockles and fishcake slices were very fresh as well. At $2, its value was unbeatable, and its satisfaction was simply priceless.
Although it’s the priciest laksa in our round-up, it’s a very large bowl of noodles enough to feed two! There was a whole lot of toppings too, which included a hard-boiled egg and a boatload of fat, juicy cockles
This wasn’t the Katong laksa variety where the noodles were cut, and the gravy was light and soupy. Here, the soup was thick and rich with rempah and coconut milk, but they were nicely balanced. Overall, the flavours here were bold, savoury, and spicy. This stall would score well for those who like their laksa robust and supersized. If we had to nitpick, it’s the excessive oil floating on the soup surface that made this laksa a little too heavy.
Price: from $3.50
Katong laksa purists might scoff at the use of evaporated milk in laksa. But we rather enjoyed the combination of coconut and evaporated milk, which gave the laksa here a gentle sweetness and creaminess that’s not excessively rich. The spice level was also just right – hot enough to provide some kick, but not overly spicy to deter moderate chilli lovers. Free-flow sambal was provided if you need extra heat.
We also liked how the daun kesom (Vietnamese mint) was finely chopped instead of shredded, so that it dispersed evenly throughout the laksa soup. True to Katong laksa style, the noodles were cut into short strands, but we found them to be too short and a little overcooked. The toppings were nothing to shout about.
Price: from $3.00
Today, there are many famous Katong laksa stalls, but this is the one that sparked the craze. Maybe they’ve lost some of that special touch, or we caught them near the end of the business day, for we were less than impressed.
The make-it-or-break-it factor – the laksa soup – lacked depth of flavour. It was tasty and had sufficient rempah fragrance, but a little watered-down. We also found too much curdled bits — the laksa soup would definitely be better if it was smoother. Even though we were moderate chilli eaters, we found the soup to be extremely mild, even with the addition of sambal. On the flipside, this would be ideal for those who prefer a lighter version of laksa.
Price: from $3.50
Using claypots to serve laksa was pioneered by this stall relocated from Depot Road. Some say it’s an ingenious idea, using a claypot to keep the noodles hot throughout the meal, but our jury is still out on this. Is it pleasure or torture to chow down scalding hot, super spicy laksa in a stuffy hawker centre on a sweltering day?
But what we unanimously agreed on was that the laksa here really packed a punch! It’s so spicy that they didn’t even bother to give you extra sambal on the side. Thick, spongy taupok soaked up the laksa gravy (it’s so thick we call it “gravy” here) to provide interesting texture. The smooth, buttery gravy was appealing at first, but it got too heavy after a few spoonfuls.