LAKSA-RAP!

Curry, coconut milk, rice noodles, seafood or meat toppings, maybe a souring agent– Laksa seems to me like a forbidden love. It’s so wrong, but feels so right.

At first acquaintance, Laksa did not appeal to me at all. It was also a big factor that it was a spicy soup. And at that time, I wasn’t wild about spicy. Our roots were Bicolano. My mother hailed from the province of Bicol, whose cuisine was the spiciest in the entire Philippines. Yet, I was not particularly drawn to spicy food.

But I don’t know what happened. After shifting to non-meat preferences in my diet, I needed more spice in my life. I needed to spike the interest of my tastebuds. And then, I was more open to the thought of Laksa.

I saw a lot of Laksa featured in the Asian food channels. In Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore. Wikipedia describes that the origins of Laksa could not be pinpointed with certainty. But it is dominated by Chinese and Malay influences. It is classified as Peranakan or Nyonya food.

ToTT 

It was in Singapore that I first tried it. It was in a place unexpected. I thought I would find the best laksa ever in a hawker place, in a street cafe. These are the times when dear friends come in handy.

Pres and Ivy, my dear friends in SG, took us to a kitchen supply store called ToTT. It was like a cook’s giant candystore. You can find all the implements and appliances for the kitchen you’ve always dreamed of. They have kitchen studios where you can have cooking classes and demonstrations. And at the back, you can find a small bistro. This kinda reminded me of my student days when we went to IKEA to get a cheap but good meal. Here at the ToTT Bistro,  you can find a wide variety of dishes. No particular cuisine but they offer food that you know and will whet your appetite, for sure.

For Laksa we came, and Laksa we sought.

ToTT’s Laksa is still the best I’ve ever had. I could not forget it, even from the first bowl I had 3 years ago. They serve it with crayfish, which was very satisfying. I don’t get to eat crayfish everyday. That was very special. But even without it, the laksa soup was creamy, with the right amount of sweet, sour, salty, spicy. Noodles were firm in the right measure. You slurp the soup and it traces your throat, in a good way. You don’t mind that it’s against etiquette to be noisy with your food. I didn’t care. That was my way of saying, this is definitely tops in my book.

ToTTLaksa
ToTT’s Laksa with Crayfish (SGD12 or PhP415); Photo by Michelle Africa

328 KATONG LAKSA

After ToTT, I had pledged my loyalty to it. But I have to keep my senses open to other brands of laksa. And no matter how much I deny it, I had to taste 328 Katong Laksa. This was the brand that I associated most to Laksa. It was what was constantly featured in the food stores I always watch on the cable food channels. For academic purposes, I asked Pres and Ivy, to bring me to 328 Katong.

KatongLaksa
Small bowl at 328 Katong Laksa (SGD5 or PhP172.95); Photo by Michelle Africa

My bowl of Laksa at 328 Katong, I’d say, was anti-climactic. It was touted as the most well known. Blame Gordon Ramsay for that. I had high expectations, that’s why I was disappointed. I guess, even in laksa, taste is very relative. This bowl was spicier than that of ToTT. Maybe many would argue that this was more authentic. It had the hole on the wall vibe. It’s been there for 70 years. No one can really argue with longevity. But experiencing food is just very personal to me. My experience is different from others. And there is no shame in that. I am unabashed. I unveil my bias, I’d pick ToTT over 328 Katong. Any day of the week.

And twice on Sundays.

Back down from Laksa heaven, my dilemma recurs. How do I deal with laksa sepanx when I am away from ToTT? Or Katong?

Thank laksa gods for Tuan Tuan.

TuanTuanSnowBuns
Tuan Tuan’s Placemat with their Bestseller Snow Buns; Photo by Michelle Africa

Tuan Tuan, as it claims, is the first Chinese brasserie in the country. Think Hongkong dishes, Paris feels. They built on the familiar, but revamped.

TuanTuanLaksa
Tuan Tuan’s Small Bowl of Laksa (PhP398 or USD8.56); Photo by Michelle Africa

The laksa here felt homey. It wasn’t jazzed up to be upscale. It delivered on what you would expect from a laksa. The fuzziness of a steamy broth on a cold rainy day. The spicy that you need to warm you up when you caught a cold. That kind of feeling is always welcome, right?

So when laksa sepanx strikes, it helps that Tuan Tuan is a car ride away. I’m happy they opened in Greenhills!

P.S. This article is also featured in Mytrendingstories.com.

328 Katong Laksa
51 East Coast Road
Singapore 428771
+65 9732 8163
Tuan Tuan Chinese Brasserie
Various Locations
http://http://tuantuan.com.ph/
ToTT
896 Dunearn Road
Sime Darby Building 
01-01A
Singapore 589472
Tel : +65 6219 7077
http://www.tottstore.com
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