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Singapore - Katong Laksa Wars (March 2012 Update)

Back to all 3 rival Katong laksa spots again this afternoon.Well - surprise, surprise, my original rating from Oct 2010 (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/737820) had to be totally revised after today's visit!

Previously, I'd have rated them thus:
#1: 328 Katong Laksa
#2: Marine Parade Laksa (Roxy Square
)#3: 49 Famous Katong Laksa

However, after today's "3 Laksa Lunches in 1 Hour", I'd rank them:
#1: 49 Famous Katong Laksa
#2: Marine Parade Laksa (Roxy Square
)#3: 328 Katong Laksa

Tastewise, 49 Famous Katong Laksa (which was pooh-poohed by Singapore food critic, Violet Oon, during her taste-test at the height of the infamous "Laksa Wars" 2 decades back) had improved by leaps & bounds! Amazingly, the two women who did most of the cooking today were undoubtedly Mainland Chinese - but obviously well-trained in the art of preparing Nyonya laksa! The laksa soup had the quintessential flavors which laksa connoisseurs looked for, the prawns were fresh and just-cooked, so were the cockles. Everything just came together perfectly. Totally unexpected development for me as, in previous years, I'd been most disappointed in 49 Famous Katong Laksa's version - the blandest in any blind test. Not now though! Theirs was the most piquant and aromatic.

328 Katong Laksa, on the other hand, seemed to be resting on their laurels. But they were extremely friendly, the owner-proprietress oozed charm and charisma, ever-attentive to her customers' needs. But their version, which I tasted barely 5 mnutes' after trying their rival's from across the road, paled in comparison. The prawns were over-cooked, the cockles were under-cooked, and the soup was the thinnest and most tasteless of the 3 I tried today.

Marine Parade Laksa - had the friendliest server. Theirs were the most consistent - unchanging during my numerous visits in the past 30 years or so. Their laksa soup was the creamiest of the lot through their liberal use of coconut milk. Their chilli paste was also the best and most flavorsome.

Address details
=============
49 Famous Katong Laksa
49 East Coast Road
Hock Tong Hin Eating House
Singapore 428768
Tel: +65 6344 5101

Marine Parade Laksa
50 East Coast Road
#01-64, Roxy Square 1
Singapore 428769
Tel: Not available

328 Katong Laksa
216 East Coast Road
Singapore 428914
Tel: +65 9732 8163

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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  1. No responses so far from S'porean hounds? :-(

    I don't consciously remember ever eating Katong Laksa in S'pore. They all look good by themselves, even though you describe the differences between them and their respective worthiness in your view. I poked around to see what defined "Katong Laksa" and an immediately proffered citation was the Wiki article on laksa, of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laksa . This has a brief description of Katong Laksa and other variants. The summary table also seems useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laksa#Su... . Of course I'm not sure if everything there and in the article is correct. What say you, or other hounds?

    The images returned from a search for "Katong Laksa" seem extremely varied in appearance! (Discounting those that are obviously *not* relevant)
    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22kat...
    Places other than the three "famous" shops in Katong that purport to sell "Katong Laksa" - in hawker centers, etc - are they any good?

    Then there's this: http://ieatishootipost.sg/2008/08/kat...

    Comments?

    23 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      I'm sorry, but it's rubbish that the little stall which ieatishootipost claimed can lay claim to "Katong" laksa. It's like saying since I'm the first to register "Jalan Kayu" for my roti prata stall, therefore I lay claim to "Jalan Kayu Roti Prata" although every Singaporean knows that it's Thasevi who made Jalan Kayu famous for its roti prata, spawning more copycats than Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas.

      Everyone knows that the original "Katong laksa" is carried on by the nephews of "Janggut", i.e. Ng Kok Soon and Ng Kok Kiang, who were splitting image of their uncle - from their not-very-prominent chins to their thin build. They originally ran the stall at Hock Tong Hin coffeeshop at 49 East Coast Road. At one point, they decided to take a one year break and went to China.

      During that time, an enterprising woman (who now runs 328 Katong Laksa) talked to the owner of Hock Tong Hin coffeeshop to let her use that vacated stall to sell laksa. Her business boomed because most people continued to patronize her stall, thinking that it's Janggut's family who let her run it.

      Then, she had a fallout with the coffeeshop owner's wife (who was probably jealous of this woman's success), evicted her and took over the 49 Katong Laksa stall! The woman who was evicted moved across the street and opened 328 Katong Laksa, thereby starting the "Katong Laksa Wars" which captured the whole Singapore's attention.

      Then, the 2 brothers came back, and found their legacy being stolen by these 2 women. They opened a stall in 51 East Cpast Rd near the overhead pedestrian bridge linking Roxy Square to the shophouses near the Alsagoff-owned Red House Bakery. But now, they moved into Roxy Square and is listed as Marine Parade Laksa.

      Make no mistake, if ANYONE can lay claim to be the originator of Katong laksa, it is the Ng family and it's now operating as Marine Parade Laksa, which is rated No. 2 by klyeoh's post above.

      I hope klyeoh goes to try Sungei Road Laksa and gives his verdict, that one stall is rated No. 1 by many laksa lovers in Singapore and given top rating by Makansutra.

      By the way, huiray, Katong Laksa all have a distinct taste of dried shrimps, 'laksa leaves' (known by Malays as 'daun kesum'), spices that include blue ginger, shrimp paste, onions and dried chillies. Always served with cockles ('see-ham'), fishcakes and smear of chillie paste. The noodles are cut short, a practice also originated by Janggut and carried on by his nephews, so they can serve the laksa with only a spoon, and save on providing chopsticks. You can see from the pictures by klyeoh above that NO chopsticks are used. The copycat rivals all pathetically discard their chopsticks and cut their laksa noodles short also, thereby giving this birth to this Katong laksa phenomenon.

      My personal favourite is also Marine Parade laksa, which is thick and rich.

      1. re: M_Gomez

        Very informative, thanks a bunch!

        If you had a bowl of Katomg Laksa and a bowl of non-Katong Laksa lemak side-by-side how would you distinguish the Katong Laksa? Many of the ingredients you cite would also be used in lemak laksa (...and of course daun kesom/rau răm/Persicaria odorata is also used in other types of laksa including the quite different Asam Laksa or other hodge-podge mixtures)

        That "Sungei Road Laksa" - is it Katong Laksa or not? (See: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/737820) (Re: whether it has coconut milk or not) Hmm, I suspect klyeoh has sampled this laksa, from looking at some of his old posts...

        1. re: huiray

          I just wanted to clarify: M_Gomez, I see your list of ingredients regarding Katong Laksa - but what I am curious about is *what is it* that specifically makes one able to say that "This Is Katong Laksa" and not just "Lemak Laksa" let alone any other of the variants of laksa that have coconut milk and any number of the same ingredients or condiments that it shares with "Katong Laksa" ?

          Please indulge me, but I am looking for a clear, *specific* delineation (if possible) of what makes a laksa dish specifically "Katong Laksa" and no other, from those who eat it and other types of laksa.

          1. re: huiray

            Hi huiray, Katong laksa uses the same basic recipe as laksa lemak or even Malacca laksa:- galangal, dried chillies, fresh chillies, shrimp paste or belachan, daun kesum, buah keras or candlenuts, dried shrimps or hae bee, onions, serai or lemongrass, coconut milk. Some places have thinner gravy like Sungei Rd, some mixed cocobnut with evaporated ,milk like 328 Katonglaksa, some have thick coconut gravy like Mary's Corner mentioned by Makanputra.
            The difference between Katong laksa and other laksa lemak:
            1. Served with raw or half-cooked cockles (Nyonya & babas who live in Katong would raise their hands in horror. He he)
            2. Only garnish with daun kesum, and no bunga kantan or curry leaves and kaffir lime leaves. No lime juice also.
            3. No hard-boiled eggs or tau-pok (dry spongey toufu)

            I'm so used to Singapore laksa now that I prefer it over Malacca laksa of my childhood!

              1. re: M_Gomez

                (deleted - wrong position, post meant as reply to klyeoh)

            1. re: huiray

              Hey, what a coincidence - I was actually at Sungei Road laksa yesterday! And so did fellow Chowhound FourSeasons!!!

              huiray - Sungei Road laksa is indeed the Katong-style Singapore-Nyonya laksa - same kind of flavors, "no chopsticks", etc. But both FourSeasons & I thought it tasted pretty bland - maybe our tastes have changed/evolved, especially me with my KL experiences in the past year!

              What I found incredible was that Sungei Road laksa still persisted in serving their laksa for S$2, which was half of what other laksa spots were charging. But then, Sungei Rd laksa did not have shrimps - only half-raw cockles (the way they should be!) and julienned fishcakes.

              Gawd, I didn't realise how much warmer and humid Singapore was at the moment. Pics from yesterday:

              Address details
              =============
              Sungei Road Laksa
              Top 33 Kopitiam
              Block 27 Jalan Berseh
              #01-100
              Singapore 200027

               
               
               
              1. re: klyeoh

                Thanks for the clarification about SR Laksa.

                Heh - well, you could eat 35 bowls of this laksa for the price of one bowl of the stuff at Chinoz on the Park, from what I gather... :-)
                (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/823736)

                1. re: huiray

                  I think klyeoh's post on Chinoz's laksa also included a lobster at some point? :D

                  1. re: M_Gomez

                    Oh, definitely - it was the "feature" of that bowl, so it seemed. Well, how many bowls of 49 Katong Laksa stuff could one get instead, then? :-)

                    1. re: huiray

                      A small bowl of laksa at 49 Katong Laksa costs S$3.50. But it has a few thin slices of shrimps which Sungei Rd's version lacked.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        Is it an option at any of these places to ask for extra shrimp or cockles or other condiments/garnishes, at extra cost of course?

                        1. re: huiray

                          I should think so, huiray. But then, Katong laksa is such a simple, eat-and-run kind of dish, I'd never ever considered asking for extra ingredients :-D

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            Really? Hmm, it would have been the first thing that crossed my mind. :-)

                            The last time I visited M'sia and had a bowl of soupy noodles (I *think* it was a wonton soup type thing) at the food stalls set up in a car park in a housing estate in Cheras I specifically asked for LOTS more "choy sum" [after the previous bowl I had, which had just ONE fan/branch/"plant" of it] and said that I would pay whatever the vendor wanted - and got maybe a couple more "plants" at best, after the vendor gave me the stink eye.** I seem to remember I also ordered a separate bowl of wontons on a subsequent occasion to augment what I got in the "normal" bowl of wonton-noodle soup. :-)

                            ** Yes, I appreciated that the vendor would have had a limited supply of veggies with him and probably wanted to be sure that he had enough to supply at least a leaf or two :-) to each subsequent bowl of stuff he would furnish to customers after me. ;-)

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              I, on the other hand, bring my own hard-boiled eggs and sometimes tofu puffs to add to my laksa.

                            2. re: huiray

                              @huiray: yes, it is an option. I always ask for extra cockles on my laksa, that is actually the highlight of the dish!

                              1. re: FourSeasons

                                Oh good, I was just telling a Canadian CH that we now consume cockles after the Hepatitis scare back in the 1990s.

                2. re: M_Gomez

                  A bit of trivia - Janggut didn't get his nickname from having a beard ("janggut" is the Malay word for 'beard'). Rather, he had a huge mole on his chin, and a tuft of thick, dark hair grew out from that mole, which he didn't bother to trim. LOL! It's true - I'd been patronizing Marine Parade laksa ever since Janggut himself was cooking, and later when one of his nephews would be cooking. I don't see them anymore now though - not even at Marina Parade laksa's current Roxy Square outpost.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Thanks for reminding me of Janggut's hairy mole, dear!

                    Puke ;)

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      Wasn't it distracting, having that in one's field of vision as one contemplated one's bowl of laksa?

                    2. re: M_Gomez

                      Well, I'm going to abstain from getting into a classic Singaporean food fight over this, but I had lunch at the 328 Katong Laksa head office (recently remodeled and now with aircon) and it was most excellent. Rich coconut broth, lots and lots of beansprouts, shrimps, cockles. Just added a dollop of the spicy chili sauce, and I was ready to roll.

                      1. re: Uncle Yabai

                        You're not far off the mark, Uncle Yabai. Since my 2012 update, "49 Famous Katong Laksa" has closed shop - replaced by an English pub (?!):
                        http://www.rabbit-carrot-gun.com/

                        I'll have to do a 2015 Katong Laksa update.

                  2. Chipping in, my favourite laksa is Sungei Road which has the perfect texture and taste for me. Can also read Anthony Bourdain's take on Sungei Road laksa here

                    http://www.justfares.com/blog/?p=649

                    I also remember Janggut laksa and also like Marine Parade laksa the best in Katong area. How come no one mentioned about Mary's Corner? She also makes good laksa.

                    1. SACRILEGE!!! Arrived in KL this evening, caught dinner at Secret Recipe (one of those chain restaurants in Malaysia) and noticed "Singapore laksa" on their menu.

                      Well, it's the proverbial "curiosity killed the cat" here - ordered it, and was absolutely scandalized by what Malaysians tried to pass off as "Singapore laksa" here! No dried shrimps in their recipe (a key ingredient in Singapore laksa), no "daun kesum" (Vietnamese mint), no cockles. They added "tau-pok" which in Singapore is only added to "Curry Mee", not "Laksa". And the fish cakes were not finely-julienned but served in ginormous strips!

                      What a travesty - coming from a neighboring country!! And look at that photo - it didn't even *look* like Singapore laksa!!

                       
                      13 Replies
                      1. re: klyeoh

                        Oh dear.

                        Well, it looks like it was sort of "lemak", though? Maybe if they just called it "Laksa Lemak" and mentioned what it came with...

                        Actually, that tid-bit about dried shrimp ("har mai"/"hae bee") being required in "Singapore Laksa" is a useful addendum to what M_Gomez listed above regarding Katong/non-Katong laksa. Would "har mai" also be required in Malaysian Nyonya (Northern or Southern or Malaccan) laksa lemak or would it be optional?

                        1. re: huiray

                          No, we don't use dried shrimps in Malacca laksa. I think that may be what gives Katong laksa its signature flavour. Also, whilst laksa in Malacca and other parts of Malaysia are cooked by members of all communities, Katong laksa is a largely "Chinese" dish, which is probably why dried shrimps has been co-opted into the recipe.

                          I'm not sure if Penang Siamese laksa or laksa lemak uses dried shrimps - I don't think so. The difference between Penang Siamese laksa and Malacca laksa which I can think of is that the Penangites used asam Gelugor or dried tamarind to make their laksa gravy more sour. But their other rempah ingedients are similar:- lemongrass, blue ginger, fresh turmeric, belacan or shrimp paste, onions, etc.

                          1. re: M_Gomez

                            That seems to add significantly to the definition of what constitutes "Katong Laksa", then! Thanks for the comments about this and the other laksa variants.

                            1. re: M_Gomez

                              M_Gomez, just wondering - in your own experience do Malaccans commonly add toasted cashewnuts to their Nyonya laksa?

                              1. re: huiray

                                Huiray - Each family in Malacca have their own way of preparing nonya laksa. Adding cashewnuts to laksa is not common in restaurants outside but is usually found in home-cooked laksa, especially the old Nonya-Baba families.

                                My own late grandauntie, bless her soul, used to provide cashewnuts for guests to add to the laksa when she prepared Sunday family lunch after church service. Her daughters, my aunties, still follow the same recipe:- we toast cashewnuts until the nuts are fragrant, then add them to our laksa just before we eat for more flavour and texture. I know another auntie who adds ground cashewnuts in place of candlenut or buah keras to her rempah. I have tried macadamia nuts myself but it didn't work out as well because macadamia nuts are too rich.

                                  1. re: M_Gomez

                                    I've never known about this practice till yesterday, M_Gomez - i.e. adding nuts & such into a curried noodle dish. But then, I'd also never heard about deep-fried spring rolls being dunked into assam laksa soup in all my 4 decades of food-hunting in Penang - until last year (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/807801).

                              2. re: huiray

                                No, we Penangites don't put 'hae bee' into our laksa, only 'hae koh' - a black, very salty, strong-smelling shrimp sauce. I was one of the party (including some foodblogger friends) which went on this 'laksa safari' with klyeoh last time:-

                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/610166

                                A bit off-topic here, I just got back from a vacation in Myanmar and realised how similar Burmese food are to Penang food. Their laksa, fried koay teow and curries all tasted 90% like Penang ones. I'll probably post my eating experiences there when I've settled back home.\My favourite dishes there are:-

                                1) Mohinga which is like Penang asam laksa

                                2) Shwe Taung Khau Swe = Penang Nyonya birthday lam mee?

                                3) Kya Zang Hinga = yong tau fu

                                4) Rakhine = Penang koay teow th'ng

                                1. re: penang_rojak

                                  Nice laksa safari. :-)
                                  Hmm, the photos of the bowls of food in klyeoh's OP in that thread look like that half-asam/half-lemak mix he talked about. Would that be right?

                                  Good to know about the absence of "hae bee"/"har mai" in the composition of the dish in Penang, thanks. We *are* talking about laksa lemak there and not asam laksa (="Penang Laksa"), yes?

                                  1. re: huiray

                                    We actually had a variety as some of us preferred just plain asam laksa while 2 or 3 in our party wanted a mixture of laksa lemak and asam laksa. We don't use 'hae bee' as the smell and taste of laksa would be irrevocably changed! Penang laksa (lemak or not) must have predominantly sour (asam keping), sweet (peng t'ng or rock sugar), salty (hae koh) and spicy (chilli) flavours. Then, we must have bunga kantan or ginger flower, mint leaves, laksa leaves, cucumber, pineapple, lots of fish including sardines and raw onions to obtain the desired end-result.

                                    1. re: penang_rojak

                                      Thanks.

                                      I *was* wondering about that LAKSA lemak in Penang. I understand about asam laksa (and the bunga kantan etc as well - or banana flowers, heh) – I used to eat it too :-) – but was unsure/don't remember about the "lemak version" of that, rather than what I *think* would be called "Curry Mee" in Penang – which in my mind is much closer to the thicker and not-sour "lemak laksa"/"curry laksa" (with tau pok and hard boiled eggs etc but no mint) I would get in KL and other places in M'sia ?

                                      I certainly understand not using "hae bee" in asam laksa (Penang). I have difficulty thinking of "normal" mint with lemak laksa in the style I described (whereas I would personally need to have it in asam laksa).

                                      ETA: I poked around a bit and up popped this recipe for curry laksa (Malaysian-style ...KL?) according to someone now living in SF - using dried prawns, heh. ;-)
                                      http://www.mykitchensnippets.com/2011... (The "Vietnamese mint" in the recipe of course is daun kesom/rau răm)

                                      I also came across this blog by a young fellow about the laksa at Balik Pulau: http://www.vkeong.com/2010/12/lemak-l... Do you know this chap?

                                      1. re: huiray

                                        vkeong is a 20-something-year-old foodblogger, and a pretty good one, who lives in Bukit Mertajam, Province Wellesley, which is the mainland part of Penang. I don't think I'd been to Bukit Mertajam since 1980!

                                        I, on the other hand, lives on Penang Island itself (Pulau Tikus area, to be exact) and I'm actually old enough to be vkeong's father! No, we'd never met.

                              3. re: klyeoh

                                This was very educational. As a foreigner, I had no idea what the differences were between the kinds of laksa. My first exposure was in the Singapore Airlines airport lounge in KL 5 years ago, which I enjoyed a lot, but it sounds just like the sacrilegious version you describe. So when I had Katong Laksa in Singapore, I was surprised by the cockles. It's good I'm experiencing them in this order though. :)

                              4. What to do if one is hankering for genuine Singapore Katong-style laksa when in KL? One simply *cannot* get Singapore laksa for love or money :-(

                                One buys Prima Taste's Singapore laksa-in-a-pack! The most authentic smelling/tasting do-it-yourself laksa can be bought from the Village Grocer at Bangsar Village for RM5 per pack. The spice pack included all the requisite ingredients: dried shrimps, galangal, lemongrass, belachan, chillies, etc. There's also a separate coconut milk pack.

                                In place of rice noodles, Prima Taste's noodle pack offered pasta, so boiling time was about 7 minutes. The result was delicious. I didn't have fresh cockles, so added egg & tofu puffs instead, besides prawns & fishcakes.

                                 
                                 
                                8 Replies
                                1. re: klyeoh

                                  Good to hear! Decent packaged laksa - who woulda thunk it.

                                  Hmm, wouldn't the tau pok and eggs make it into a hybrid between Katong/Singapore Laksa and Singapore Curry Mee? (Just wondering)

                                  1. re: huiray

                                    LOL! The desperate lengths we go through here in KL for a taste of home.

                                    BTW, Singapore curry mee does not contain hard-boiled eggs (don't ask me why!), but will have poached chicken (cooked separately, then served with the curried noodles later), tofu puffs, potatoes and beansprouts. And no other types of garnishes!
                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/800318

                                    1. re: huiray

                                      Am expanding my search for good curry laksa/curry noodles in Malaysia outside KL.

                                      Off to Ipoh tomorrow (early Sunday morning) with foodie friends - try to get into Xin Quan Fang for their ultra-famous curry noodles, topped with char-siu, etc.

                                      Then, off to Malacca next Sat (31 Mar) for Donald & Lily's Nyonya laksa in Heeren Street.

                                      Will post separate threads for those two cities :-)

                                      1. re: klyeoh

                                        Those reports will be gladly read. :-)

                                        Does the KL version of curry laksa - its own version of "laksa" - have any appeal to you on its own merits? It's not supposed to be "Katong Laksa" nor "Singapore Laksa", after all...

                                        1. re: huiray

                                          Of course - I loved KL curry mee in a *big* way, for a few reasons: it contained aubergines (my fave veg), long beans (which I also loved) and poached chicken (absolutely adore that).

                                          Loved the Jalan Alor version the most:
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/782525

                                          and Madras Lane version 2nd-best:
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/805239

                                          1. re: klyeoh

                                            Oh yes, that's right...those reports of yours had slipped my mind, sorry - but its been a while. :-)

                                            Y'know, here Stateside we have battles between regional variants of BBQ** with disputes between the camps...and the number of variants are pretty large, even down to between neighboring sub-regions and even towns in some states! But of course you must know this. Alas, I confess I don't really pay attention to that subject - for which I'd get my head chopped off by die-hard aficionados of BBQ!

                                            **...and arguments about what constitutes BBQ...

                                        2. re: klyeoh

                                          Donald & Lily in Malacca? Really?! You must try their chendol and fried tau-hu also.

                                          1. re: klyeoh

                                            Ipoh, Malaysia (2 hours' drive north of KL) - Curry noodles, Ipoh-style from Xin Quan Fang:
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/840660

                                            Malacca, Malaysia (1.5 hour's drive south of KL) - Malacca-style Nyonya laksa from Donald & Lily:
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841733

                                      2. I am just seeing your Laksa wars post from last March today, so I quickly wanted to respond and add more information to the mix, even though it's a few months later. I am a food writer here in Singapore and have written extensively regarding Katong Laksa and the Laksa wars. I'm a frequent visitor to all three of the laksa places, and was most recently there just 2 days ago when foodwalking for a food app that I am involved in creating. Here is the breaking Laksa News: Famous 49 Laksa is closed!! It has moved from its long-standing home on the corner of East Coast Rd. and Ceylon Road (right across the street from 328 and also the Original Katong Laksa -- Jangutt's place, which is indeed the true original). This closure came as quite a surprise to me, as these three Laksa institutions have anchored this part of Katong to the Laksa world of Singapore. It turns out that Famous 49 has moved out of the area to the West end of Singapore, down the street from the World Trade Center bldg near West Coast Park. If you're not familiar with Singapore, that is almost as far away from Katong as one can get without entering Malaysia or the South China Sea. So from the standpoint of the three primary laksa joints in Katong, it's the end of an era.

                                        As an update on the quality of the Laksa in Katong over recent months, having eaten at all three of these places on many occasions, I can tell you that there is some fluctuation in quality at 328. It has consistently been the most popular of recent times, and proprietor Nancy (Lucy) Koh has developed quite a following of fans, as evidenced by the many quasi-celebrity pictures on the indoor, air-conditioned portion of this Laksa institution. Famous 49's laksa had vastly improved the last time I had it here, but whether that quality will continue at the new digs remains to be seen. As of last Saturday, 328's laksa did, indeed, taste a little thin. The noodles were still firm, the cockles perfectly cooked and very large, which is uncharacteristic. But, the curry did not have the depth that it has had in the past. It tasted as if, perhaps, some shortcuts with evaporated milk rather then pure coconut milk might have been taken. Aberration? I think so, because this laksa place is consistently quite good. Maybe it was just an off day. Conversly, The Original Katong Laksa in Roxy Plaza (Jangutt's place) was exceptional! The gravy was thick, rich and deep in color. Beautiful globules of oil and fat floated on top, dancing with the noodles, fishcake and speckles of laksa leaves. The chili sauce dolloped at the edge of the bowl was spicy and balanced and added even more flavor and a little more heat to the already exquisite dish. Notably, the cockles were much smaller than those at 328 -- more typical of most laksas, but I would've preferred the larger cockles. The prawns were nicely cooked, not overly done, and, yes, the people working the counter were extraordinarily friendly. This place is a true treasure; it's just sad that it's in the lower level of Roxy Plaza, obscured to most uniformed laksa-lover-wannabes.... So that is the October 2012 update on the now defunct Laksa war situation. For more information, see my blog, http://foodwalkers.com for photos and a write up I recently did on laksa here. Kevin F. Cox (the FoodWalker).

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: kevincox

                                          Thanks for the update, Kevin. The closure of 49 Famous Katong Laksa is indeed a bit of a shock, but I guess they decided that they couldn't sustain ther business amidst the competition there. Sad :-(

                                          1. re: klyeoh

                                            Sad to read about.

                                            BTW, Kevin's post raises an issue I hadn't thought about too closely before: In Katong laksa, are the cockles added raw (to be cooked in the hot laksa broth/sauce) or are they "partially cooked" BEFORE being added to the laksa bowl? If "partially cooked", how cooked? [e.g. M_Gomez talks about raw or half-cooked cockles added to the bowl of laksa: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8392...]

                                            Kevin, what do you mean when you say the cockles were "perfectly cooked"? Degree of "doneness"; cooked before adding, cooked in broth, ??

                                            1. re: huiray

                                              Hi. The cockles in Laksa are added completely raw and are cooked by the natural heat of the gravy in the bowl. They are not pre-cooked. These are generally the "blood cockles" which are small with very pronounced ridges on tier shells (of course when added to the laksa they are already out of the shell). They tend to impart a strong, almost fishy flavor to the dish -- many ang mohs like myself (read: caucasians or "red-haired devils") don't like such a strong seafood flavor. For me, I can go either way with them, but prefer no cockles because I prefer the old-school version. See, the addition of cockles to laksa is a "modern" twist on the original dish. The classic version would never have cockles and most old-timers to the dish do not want them in it -- it detracts from the original, wondrous character of this amazing dish. So contrary to what many think or assume, old-school laksa means "No cockles." Lastly, do people out there also understand the difference between laksas here? There is Nyonya laksa (coconut curry based version) as well as Katong laksa (pretty much the same as Nyonya except the noodles are cut short so there is no need to use chopsticks, rather JUST a spoon) and then there is Asam (or Penang) Laksa, which is a completely different animal altogether -- with no curry, no coconut and instead a sour/sweet/hot dark broth with seafood, some veg and often fruit, such as pineapple. Totally different and a bit harder to find here (got to cross the causeway to Malaysia for the really good stuff) but it can be found -- especially in Geylang Serai area. For me, however, Nyonya Laksa is the true breakfast of Champions! Hope this helps. come to Singapore if you're not here -- I'll take you FoodWalking for Laksa and lots of other great food! Kevin (The FoodWalker) http://foodwalker.com

                                              1. re: kevincox

                                                Thanks for your reply.

                                                So - the cockles ARE added raw. So- the "perfectly cooked" cockles you referred to are a function of the serendipitous timing of the bowl of laksa you were served, then? ;-)

                                                As you say, cockles are not an automatic component of a bowl of "laksa". It depends on what you are eating and where.

                                                Yes, I know the differences between types of laksa, although the specific details were not "specific enough" except as I tried to draw out in this thread. I grew up in KL (I'm of Chinese extraction on both sides) and ate my share of all sorts of laksa all over the general area but never thought too deeply about it until my later years and until I waded into this thread. Thank you for your concern, though. It *is* true that many Occidentals/Westerners - INCLUDING that famed personage, Anthony Bourdain - might have a shaky grasp on how broad a spectrum the term "laksa" covers. Perhaps those who research the subject and perhaps may come across threads like this one might gain further understanding about the subject.

                                                Isn't it also the case that "Katong laksa" and "Nyonya laksa lemak" differs in the add-ons for the laksa? And that "Nyonya laksa" also differs between geographical areas as to the add-ons and the specific spices that go into it, again depending on which part of SE Asia you are talking about?

                                                Please, do post more - I would like to read what you think about the subject. Have you been living in Singapore long? What are your preferences amongst the various iterations and varieties of laksa spanning Malaysia/Borneo, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia?

                                                1. re: kevincox

                                                  Kevin, I was browsing thru your Foodwalk blog on Katong. A bit of trivia here - do you know that Ali Baba Eating House (where Mary's Corner Tau Kwa Pau stall is located) has a fascinating Chinese name? It's "阿里巴巴一定好!" (as seen on the sunscreen at the side of the shop) which translates phonetically in Mandarin to "Ah Lee Ba Ba Yi Ting Hau!" which sounded close to "Ali Baba Eating House", but its actual meaning in Mandarin is "Ali Baba is Definitely Good!" :-)

                                                   
                                                  1. re: klyeoh

                                                    Oh, that is hilarious. I have no idea that that's what that Chinese lettering represented. Really really funny. Ali Baba is a great little eating house and Mary's Corner has what I think is the best tau kwa pau that I've found in Singapore. Actually, that whole intersection and surrounding area is great -- one of my favorite places to eat! I was sad to see Saveur leave, but happy to see a new French still has since replaced it. Savuer has opened a real restaurant on Purvis Street, a couple of blocks behind Raffles hotel. They're doing well, but just couldn't manage both the Ali Baba stall and a real restaurant. I've not yet tried the new French place (I think it's called something like "Le Parisienne", but will be doing so very soon and look forward to it. I've lived in SG for about 3.5 years now and truly love the food culture here. Are you also in SG or has life taken you elsewhere? Thanks so much for having a look at my Foodwalkers blog -- I'm waaay behind on updates to it, but spending so much time working on building a new food app that I have neglected it. Not for long though -- I'm committed to getting more regular with it. Thanks again! Kevin

                                                    1. re: kevincox

                                                      I'm from Singapore but currently in KL on job attachment since last year - I return home monthly, usually to spend the weekend. Chowhounding in KL is much, much more interesting than Singapore as the traditional food preparation techniques live on in Malaysia. Singapore's becoming too sterilised and our hawker food these days tasted awful compared to a mere 30 years ago.

                                                      Mary's Corner also sells a very rich (overly-so) Katong laksa which the late, great NY Times food writer, R.W. Apple tried & wrote about. Anthony Bourdain, on the other hand, tried Sungei Road's laksa.

                                                      1. re: klyeoh

                                                        Mary's food offerings: "Tau Kwa Pau" and, what else, but the "Katong Laksa".

                                                         
                                                         
                                                         
                                                         
                                                  2. re: kevincox

                                                    BTW, the link you posted (http://foodwalker.com/) leads to this page... http://www.hugedomains.com/domain_pro...)
                                                    You left out the "s" from "foodwalkers". :-)

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      Thanks for pointing that out. The link should be http://foodwalkers.com (it's plural). I'm still working out the details on Foodwalker.com -- it's complicated....

                                                      Glad to hear Bourdain hit Sungei Rd laksa -- a great bowl of laksa -- truly old school place with that smokey, charcoal essence due to how they cook it. Love that place and fo r$2 bucks a bowl it's almost impossible to beat!. I'm buds with Seetoh, so I'm not surprised he took him there....