Tucked away in a corner coffee shop in Telok Kurau, Katong Laksa has been serving up this local favourite to foodies for almost four decades. inSing.com speaks to owner George Ng, 57, about his homemade laksa broth and why this delicious dish is such a hit among Singaporeans.
There are many stalls named "Katong Laksa" around. Is there an 'original' outlet?
That's a good question! My father started Katong Laksa almost 40 years ago and I registered the name in 1981 when I took over the business. We've been here at Telok Kurau for over two decades now, long before Katong became popular for its laksa.
How did you learn how to make laksa?
My father taught me! When he first came to Singapore, he had no idea how to make laksa but he learnt it from the Peranakan folks in the area and eventually added his own special touch to it.
When did you make your first bowl of laksa and who was your first customer?
I started helping my dad when I was 16, but I only made my first bowl of laksa much later when I took over the reigns from him. I can't remember who my first customer was though because that was over 20 years ago!
Who/what inspired you to set up your own stall?
It's a family business and so it was natural for my father to hand it over to me when the time was right. The funny thing is that he actually told me not to continue the business as it takes a lot of hard work to prepare laksa, but I had been doing it for over 10 years and it was the only livelihood I knew! I loved it and so I proudly carried on the tradition.
Have you ever made changes to your laksa recipe (or looking to do so) as Singaporeans become increasingly health-conscious and selective about their food they eat?
If you've tried the laksa at my stall, you would know that my gravy is not as oily as compared to most places and that is the way it has always been. A lot of people are health conscious nowadays and say that laksa is not good for them because it contains coconut milk. I think there is good and bad cholesterol in coconut milk so the most important thing is to eat it in moderation.
What were some memorable moments in your 24 years of selling laksa?
Well, KF Seetoh from Makansutra came by to try my laksa. He liked it so much that he included it in his food guide.
Does your family help out at your stall?
Only over the weekends. My older son Gerald is learning to be a chef at At-Sunrice so he comes by whenever he has free time. My younger son helps out too if he is free or if his older brother is unable to come down.
Do you plan to carry on this family busines or pass it on to your children?
Yes, but only if they want to. I think my older boy will take over though -- he is currently pursuing his chef course and is very interested in cooking.
Why is laksa so popular among Singaporeans?
I have no idea! (laughs) It's probably because of its great taste. Laksa is very unique.
What makes a good bowl of laksa?
The gravy is very important. That's the first thing you need to take note of. It cannot be too thick or too oily and it must be fragrant.
What is your favourite hawker fare?
Beef kway teow. I always patronise the stall at Laguna Food Centre because the owner and I are childhood friends and he is a great cook.
Katong Laksa is located at: 1 Telok Kurau Road.