Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Laksa Trail

Despite planning my Singapore trip mostly on the basis of my love for laksa, I'd eaten very little of this lovely dish during my visit, so on my last day in town, before the chili crab adventure, I decided it was time to get serious about laksa. I stopped by the front desk with my guidebook and asked where some of the food courts mentioned were located. My first choice was 20 minutes away by taxi, but he helpfully pointed out that Katong Road, a closer destination, is where there was a high density of laksa shops. Perfect. Most opened at 9:30 AM. I didn't want to be late. To the taxi stand and to the mall.

Some minutes later, I was at the Parkway Parade Shopping Center. I paced the stalls and was saddened to find that Good N Jolly was closed for the day. Not a very good start. I bought myself a pandan pastry to console myself. The filling was a creepy green hue. It certainly wasn't a dish of noodles submerged in spicy coconut broth. When I got outside, it started to rain.

Wearing flip flops and sans umbrella, I scrambled up a flight of stairs to reach the above-ground walkway. And that's when I spotted those fateful words...Roxy Square...home of the Original Katong Spoon Laksa (yes, you only get a spoon for the noodles). It's in a older mall which is sort of depressing at moments. The food court was more like a food alley, with plastic red and white tablecloths set against a decor of mustard yellow. But the laksa...savory and more spicy than I'd had before, fragrant and hot, and served up by a charmingly helpful woman I'd not call friendly, but who nonetheless helped me find the tea tarek that I'd been wanting to try and who put me on to having an otah with the laksa. Just what were these fine items?

Tea tarek is pulled tea, literally milk tea pulled from one cup to another to create a light froth on top and smooth drink in one. It didn't really go with the laksa, but it was barely 10AM and I'd not had any coffee.

As for the otah - it's fish mince with lots of spices, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. She was right, it complemented the laksa beautifully. Soon my bowl was empty and it was onto another stop...328 Katong Laksa, a stand on the corner with tables on the sidewalk, nearly in the street. This was a spicier version than the one I'd sampled just minutes before. Hints of ginger and other spices made me forget that a car was trying to park mere feet from me. An utterly delightful breakfast.


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