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Is there Singaporean Laksa in Toronto?

is there anywhere in Toronto that one can find this coconut milk curry rice vermicelli soup, usually filled with prawns, fish cake, tofu puffs and occasionally baby octopus, mussels and hard boiled egg halves(with a dollop of sambal)? This street stall Singaporeean staple is readily found in urban Australia, in particular Sydney.

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  1. Often discussed. You might start your search here:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/739527

    1. There's a food court at First Markham Place (Woodbine/Hwy 7). In the corner, next to the Japanese stall there's a Malaysian /Thai place that serves a pretty good (IMO) Laksa for very little $. If you're up in the area, I recommend you try it.

      1. Try Pacific Mall, Food Court level (the one inside the mall, not near the escalators). Singaporeans own that shop so it is singapore style.

        http://www.bagahon.com/catalog/index....

        Good Luck

        13 Replies
        1. re: andyhkng

          salis noodis on yonge just south of st clair has laksa. i'd never had it previously, so can't compare. but i did find the dish a bit too bland, not as complex and intensely flavored as i would've liked.

            1. re: szw

              Definitely the place to try.
              But isn't it now Gourmet Malaysia?

              1. re: estufarian

                The restaurant is gourmet malaysia. The food court is still open and is still gourmet garden. Both will always be named gourmet garden to me.

                While you're at it, give 1 2 snacks a try at glenwatford (its close by). I actually prefer their laksa to GG.

                1. re: szw

                  Agreed. Love One2 snacks!! Especially their kuih dadar.

                  1. re: szw

                    GG is very good. That restaurant owner is my idol.

                  2. re: estufarian

                    Yep. Gourmet Malaysia, and across the street from where Gourmet Garden used to be.

                2. re: andyhkng

                  Please don't! this place has the best hainanese chicken rice in gta but the laksa is disgusting.... Avoids the laksa, get the chicken

                  1. re: szw

                    Oooh, really?! I didn't know. I've been eating chicken rice at Phoenix, which is only okay-lah at best.

                    1. re: jlunar

                      I haven't had Phoenix for a long time, I should try it again just to remember it, but yeah its my favourite chicken rice. Except for today...they didn't have any of the thick soy (well thats what they said) and the chicken came with some sesame oil/soy sauce already drizzled on it. Weird...but usually its great IMO.

                      I was really turned off though today because of the gross laksa and not mentioning they didn't have the right condiments for the rice. In a hissy fit while eating I vowed never to go back there, but I probably will some time when stuck at pacific mall.

                      1. re: szw

                        Thanks for the update szw! I was debating about when to brave Pac Mall again - weekends are usually when I have time, but those are the worst hours! Maybe sometime in the morningish...

                    2. re: szw

                      WRONG! :-)
                      I love the Laksa here, and the Char Kwei Teo, and my my Singaporean-Chinese friend Weng says it's very traditional.
                      For chicken-rice, we tend to favour South-Asia Malaysian, but always looking for new spots.

                      1. re: TorontoTips

                        Glad you enjoyed it, hopefully I just got a bad batch as it was truly horrible. I tried the oyster omelette also amd that wasn't very good, but better than the laksa.

                        As for south Asia Malaysian, I will just say that there are better spots.

                  2. Hawkerbar on Ossington is a new trendy Singaporean joint that has laksa but I've never tried it

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: echeng25

                      If you're looking for Australian-Singaporean foods, Hawker Bar could be a good place - I'm not positive since I don't know what that would taste like. I do know that currently, the flavours aren't what one would call authentic. I was pretty disappointed.

                      1. re: jlunar

                        edit: *the flavours aren't what one would call authentically (and soley) Singaporean.

                        Further thought: I liken it to coming to Canada to learn how to cook Chinese food and end up Canadian-Chinese. It's got its place, but it's not what someone looking for Chinese food would necessarily seek out.

                        1. re: jlunar

                          aka it's for white people because Ossington is a "happening" street.

                          go to gourmet garden.

                    2. If you're willing to travel into Mississauga, there's a great restaurant that specializes in Singaporean/Malaysian food. It's called Lion City and from what I've had, it's just as good as the times I've been in Singapore. They have Laksa Lemak on the menu.

                      http://lioncityrestaurant.ca/

                      1. Wondering what you mean when you request "Singaporean Laksa", especially with that medley of accompaniments you list?

                        Have a look at this thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/839207

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: huiray

                          There is Singaporean laksa(also known as laksa lemak), as well as others such as Assam laksa(or Penang laksa) and Burmese laksa. Assam is alot more sour. Burmese is good but not as prominent if at all in Sydney Australia. Singaporean laksa has become part of Australian cuisine as much as Indian curry has in England.

                          1. re: YVR flyboy

                            Yes, thanks, I know about the various types. However, "laksa lemak" alone does not define "Singaporean Laksa". "Laksa Lemak" is found from Thailand stretching through Malaysia through Singapore into parts of Indonesia, with different variations and slight differences in the spicing, and with different combinations of condiments/toppings and/or lack of some toppings compared with another.

                            The CH thread I linked to comprises an interesting discussion of the differences between various types in the immediate region and the distinct kinds of toppings/accompaniments that go with each. Did you read it?

                            1. re: YVR flyboy

                              Sorry, YVR flyboy, I felt I need to correct you there - Australian laksa is NOT Singapore laksa. I liked Australian laksa, and have been enjoying it since the early 1970s when Malaya restaurant in George Street first "invented" it, using a mixture of spices they imported from Singapore. As Malaya was located opposite the Australian Broadcasting Corporation building, ABC reporters and members of the media made Malaya their own favourite place to meet and chat and write about the Vietnam War going on at the time.

                              Malaya was good for its beef rendang (which tasted more like the tinned version we get from Yeo's these days) and, of course, its laksa, which has less spices than Singapore versions, lots of chicken (which we don't put into laksa in Singapore, but only in our curry noodles) and with evaporated milk and fresh milk, not coconut milk.

                              Through the decades, Australian laksa has evolved and has its own characteristics. Malaysia Laksa House in Queen Victoria Building (the grand majestic building is owned by Malaysia's Ipoh Garden Ltd) serves a decent version, but you really can find it all over Sydney.

                              I like Australian laksa for its own characteristics, but I won't call it Singapore laksa, or even try and compare it to other types of laksa which we find in Malaysia (Penang, Johore, Kelantan, Sarawak, or Kedah laksas)

                              For a taste of the iconic Malaya's Oz-Malaysian cuisine, you can go to its current location in King Street Wharf, where it moved to in early-2000. It still serves the quintessential Aussie-style laksa, alongside 2 types of beef rendang: an authentic Malaysian one, and the traditional Aussie one which it first started serving in the 1960s!

                            2. re: huiray

                              True. I grew up in Singapore and cockles (before the Hep B awareness kicked in) was my favorite. I didn't recall Mussels nor Baby Octopus. However hard boiled egg, fishcake and tou pok was common.

                              1. re: andyhkng

                                In Sydney Australia, Laksa House in the Queen Victoria Building puts baby octopus and shelled mussels. My expat Singaporean friend who now lives in Canada likes laksa with cockles.

                                1. re: andyhkng

                                  My dear, cockles in laksa has made a comeback in Singapore, even half-raw ones. No hard-boiled eggs in our laksa though, it must have been a LONG time since you came home ;)

                              2. Hawker Bar was extremely disappointing. Downtown, I prefer Matahari Grill or the Thai kao soi at Khao San Rd/Sukhothai.

                                1. Hawker Bar on Ossington serves Laksa and has an Australian chef. I haven't tried it, but ti seems to be the 'Australian' style!

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: estufarian

                                    My Aussie mate tried it and it satisfied his craving. So I'm guessing its similar to Australian laksa.

                                    1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                      To me, "Australia laksa" sounds like "Canadian pad thai". The words can be put together to make sense, but when you see the execution has been mutated to such a degree (i.e. replace tamarind with ketchup in the case of pad thai) why bother?

                                      I'm not suggesting Australia laksa is bad, I'm saying Hawker bar laksa is bad for someone like me who enjoys Singaporean laksa. My 2 cents. If I had the choice to get pad thai at Springrolls or pad thai at the original Sukho Thai, why would I choose Springrolls? The problem here is there is no Sukho Thai option for the Hawker Bar problem, nor do the clientele care or know what the difference is. Even the laksa broth made from Prima Taste mix (used to be available at T&T) taste better.

                                      I would not and could not recommend Hawker Bar to any one looking for a SE Asian / "Singapore" flavour profile.

                                      Hawker Bar should simply advertise they are an Australian restaurant, but the fact is "Singapore" is buzzword to foodies from all the various TV media hype.

                                      1. re: vincechan

                                        Is hawker bar selling themselves as "authentic" Singaporean? I am not. But it is what it is. Are you saying Chinese Canadian has no place in this market? How about Indian Hakka? How about Texmex? Or poutine with beef gravy? OP said they are ok with "Sydney" laksa, so I offered an option.

                                        1. re: KhaoSanRoad

                                          I clearly stated that I'm not bashing Australian Laksa. I was pointing out how I view those word pairings in context. And they are a mutation of the original. Many Hakka people I know do not recognize Indian Hakka food found in toronto - saying it's a mutation does not imply it's bad, but rather unrecognizable and dissappointing when different from expectations.

                                          Once in a while, I also crave a good Canadian Chinese, Indian Hakka, Texmex whatever.. when its a good dish. I've had bad laksa in Singapore just like I'm sure there are great laksa in Australia. Judge the cooking rather than the cuisine - and yes, I cannot stand using Ketchup in pad thai, no matter what, everyone has their personal preferences right?

                                          So when judging the cooking, IMHO, Hawker Bar "sells" a way inferior product. The ossington hype is not worth it, and when the OP asks for Singaporean flavour, AFAIK, good laksa found in Australian taste pretty close to Singaporean, what I've had at Hawker was not in the same ball park, area code, continent or planet. Another case in point, may I add that Hainanese chicken rice should not have the consistency of risotto - wet, drenching and mushy. Yuk!

                                          The use of the word "Hawker" in their establishment's name near is clearly painting the SG image. Nobody will immediately ties Hawker to Australia. One thing you are absolutely right on.. it is what it is... and may I add... BAD!

                                          1. re: vincechan

                                            vincechan is correct: (1) Australian laksa is *not* the same as Singapore laksa. (2) There is good Aussie laksa to be had in Sydney, just as there are bad Singapore laksa spots in Singapore.

                                            Personally, I *love* Aussie laksa - maybe because I spent my formative years in Australia, first in boarding school, then in university, and I worked there for a while before returning to Singapore after my convocation.

                                            Aussie laksa was invented by the Malaya Restaurant back in the 1960s when it was located opposite the Australian Broadcasting Corp offices off George Street, Sydney. Journalists (both local and foreign) covering the Vietnam War during that era would gather at the Malaya for drinks and a bite or two. The owner - who's actually a HK-Chinese, came up with the laksa using ingredients available to him there and then. It was a huge hit, together with the restaurant's Aussie rendition of the Malay rendang beef. The Malaya became legendary :-D

                                            The restaurant was relocated to bigger premises in the mid-90s at King St Wharf (near Darling Harbour), but still served its classic (Oz-style) laksa - creamier than *any* Asian version, and chockful of chicken breast meat, and large shrimps. My fave spot in Sydney for Aussie laksa is the Malaysian Laksa House in the Queen Victoria Building - they do a classic version, and there are many other spots in Sydney, Melbourne, even Perth, which offered this similar version.

                                            For me, the Aussie laksa can be defined as another category of laksa by itself, and can stand proud alongside other versions like:

                                            - Singapore Nyonya (Katong) laksa. There's a detailed description of what constitutes our version of laksa in this thread:
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/839207

                                            - Malacca laksa: very similar to Singapore laksa, but creamier, has longer noodle length, also contains "bunga kantan" (torch-ginger flower) and kaffir limes leaves for garnish, while Singapore's version only contained "daun kesum"

                                            - Penang assam laksa: sour with tamarind, very fishy as oftentimes, canned sardines were added besides the fresh, steamed mackerel, and drizzled with pungent "hae koh" or fermented shrimp sauce. Details on where to get the *best* Penang assam laksa - unfortunately, you need to go to Penang:
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/610166

                                            - The so-called Thai laksa or "khanom chin nam ya", with their characteristic galangal-heavy flavour, and addition of pickled mustard leaves as a garnish.

                                            - Johore laksa - from the Southern state of Johore on Malaysia. What's interesting is the use of Italian pasta, or more specifically spaghetti, in lieu of local noodles. The recipe is rather labour-intensive.

                                            - Sarawak laksa, which I thought had an intoxicating fragrance - I was hooked on it the first time I tasted it in Kucing, Sarawak. Garnished with shrimps and chicken shreds, besides egg omelette strips.

                                            Judging from the miniscule number of Singaporeans residing in Toronto (not that there are *that* many of us globally - only 3.5 million Singaporeans worldwide, including in our own home country), I wonder if one can realistically expect to find genuine Singapore flavours in Toronto. I'm in London currently and, even with the relatively "larger" Singaporean community here, I *can't* find really genuine Singapore food here - not even in Bugis Street (at the Singapore-owned Millennium Gloucester Hotel) nor Singapore Garden (Swiss Cottage) which I'd patronized for over 2 decades.

                                            As the proprietor-chef of Sedap (perhaps the *best* Singaporean restaurant in London, if not the whole of Europe) told us, he simply cannot offer genuine flavours to local diners because (1) they won't be able to accept the assertive flavours of *real* Singapore food, and (2) some ingredients are simply impossible to obtain, or else too expensive so as to render their usage impractical.

                                            1. re: vincechan

                                              I was merely responding to "Australian laksa....why bother?". And pointing that it may be a palatable facsimile for the OP. I have not had Singapore laksa in Singapore, I have not had Australian laksa in Australia. I haven't even had toronto laksa at hawker. I was offering an option and heresay.

                                              And thanks klyeoh for the info.