Laksa is the love

25 09 2011

Katong Laksa at 328 Katong Laksa (This photo and everything else, taken with my Blackberry Bold 9780)

I’VE BEEN told that you’ve never been to Singapore if you didn’t have Laksa.  I think I want to amend that to “You’ve never been to Singapore if you didn’t have 328 Katong Laksa.”

Welcome to the Famous 328 Katong Laksa!


There's no question which one I'd order!... Do you see just how affordable this delectable dish is?


The place offers porridge too, and a host of local thirst- or spice-quenchers.

Laksa is a spicy curry noodle soup, with a coconut milk-based broth, and usually garnished with finely chopped fresh coriander leaves.  Here in Singapore, all the bowls that I have had – at various ToastBox outlets, at the airport, at hawker stalls – had fish cake and shrimps.  When I first ordered it, I expected to get a bowl full of mee kia (the Hong Kong-style, thin, yellow egg noodles), only to get one with thick bee hon (rice noodles).  Yes, there was a hint of disappointment – I think I wasn’t able to delay my reaction and the pursing of my lips gave me away – but nevertheless, I came out of that first experience awash with a sense of comfort and calm.  Laksa is the love.

The laksa has landed!


I just had to have – and had to ask – for another dollop of the finely chopped coriander leaves!

At 328 Katong Laksa, the first thing that struck me was that the noodles were cut up.  I knew I kept glancing to my left and right to see if anybody was as surprised as I was.  Apparently, that’s what is unique to the “Katong” version – the noodles are cut up so you could do away with chopsticks or forks and just use a spoon.  Anything to cut to the chase of my gastronomic pleasures, I’m all for it.

See, the noodles are already cut up. All you have to do is spoon... and maybe, slurp.

I did notice too that the shrimps were plentiful, a fact that I remember blabbering about.  And that the coriander leaves couldn’t have just been chopped carelessly, but rather pounded to almost be a pungent, fragrant paste.  I could use it to spike the whole bowl, or for a more intense sensation running down my spine, I could stain one spoonful at a time and be lost in the flavor explosions in my mouth.

As the intensity of this Katong Laksa experience continually built up to a raging crescendo, I felt the need to reach out for a bowl of steaming hot white rice.  A part of me felt that such perfectly married flavors of the creamy coconut milk and the subtly arresting colorful purity of the curry should be honored with heaping spoonfuls of rice.  Lest I fretted, I realized that in its place was the fish paste (“otak-otak”), a cake of fish and spices, lovingly wrapped in steamed banana leaves, and then grilled.  Though resembling the Mexican tamale, the fish paste is something that I found to be more appealing to my palate.  It was love at first bite.  It came to the point that I tried to consume it as slowly as I could, rationing each portion with such drama, almost melancholic as the fish paste disappeared from my sight.

My Katong Laksa shares space with this amazing fish paste.


The fish paste may not have photographed beautifully, but it did taste amazingly. The banana leaves, apart from ensconcing the delicate fish paste, imparted a hint of fragrance that was the perfect counterpoint to any expected fishy smell.

I swear I could easily – and quickly! – go through a couple of large bowls of Katong Laksa.  Only the littlest iota of propriety I have in me kept me from ordering another bowl, I mean, in the interest of time and in deference to my hosts.  And yes, in recognition of my expanded girth.

I almost licked the bowl clean. Hahaha!

But definitely, I would go back to 328 Katong Laksa to have my fix.  Hey, if it was good enough for the Anthony Bourdain, it’s good enough for me.  But you know what, I don’t actually need the endorsement of an internationally renowned foodie with two published books (a piece of trivia I later realized wasn’t as popular as anything about Star Wars).

All I needed was to go with a local.  Or an almost local.

On the photo wall, a snapshot that says, "the Anthony Bourdain was here."



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