Singapore cuisine often showcases the conglomeration of our ethnic and cultural roots – a rojak of backgrounds. These dishes often have a depth of flavour that exquisitely balances the various tastes that come from different backgrounds into an utterly unforgettable creation. Take Chicken Rice for example – just a plate of rice and chicken can become known world-wide as a culinary must-try.
Then there is laksa, which in its Peranakan roots combine Chinese and Malay flavours into an absolutely unforgettable rich and fragrant coconut-based gravy, best slurped up with thick rice vermicelli noodles, fresh cockles, crunchy beansprouts, and toppings such as prawns, chicken, taupok, and fish cake slices.
This lemak version is widely regarded as the nyonya laksa, which is unlike its counterpart – the assam laksa, a version that uses sour tamarind as its base and more commonly found in the Malay Peninsula. Laksa in Singapore has grown to include another kind called ‘Katong Laksa’, which is served just with a spoon, as its noodles are pre-cut into bite-sized portions so patrons can slurp up every drop without extra utensil fumble.
As with every signature dish in Singapore, where the best laksa can be found is an issue of great contention, even leading to a ‘laksa war zone’ where three principal laksa establishments fight for the claim of being the original creator of Katong Laksa. Are they worthy of the name, or should you keep your calories for elsewhere? You be the judge.
Queensway Shopping Centre, Queensway, Singapore, 149053
Run by the sister-in-law of the original creator, the laksa at this stall in the basement of Queensway Shopping Centre is of course served with cut noodles and just a soup spoon. The gravy here is less spicy with a tinge of eggy sweetness, with extra chilli available for individual preference. Portions may be small for its price though, so be prepared if you’re coming with a growling stomach.
53 East Coast Road, Singapore, 428771
Gordon Ramsay pitted his skills against this stall in last year’s Hawker Hero Challenge but failed to create a better version. A taste of the gravy and you may understand his inability to even imitate the intricate balance of chilli, coconut milk and dried shrimp. We love how the aromatic gravy has permeated the noodles, and how finely chopped dried shrimp can be found sunken at the bottom of the bowl for a last shiok slurp. The rather brusque staff will always ask if you would want some otah otah – we say go for it as a great accompaniment to your bowl of laksa.
1220 East Coast Parkway, East Coast Lagoon Food Village, 01-48, Singapore, 468960
Keeping close to his grandfather’s recipe means that the hawker at Roxy Laksa still squeezes his coconut milk freshly every day, infused with fresh laksa leaves, spices and lemongrass for the most authentic tasting gravy. You won’t miss the lack of cockles with their lemak gravy and fresh ingredients here.
531A Upper Cross Street, Hong Lim Food Centre, 02-66, Singapore, 051531
$2 for a bowl of laksa? Try $2 for a bowl of really good laksa. One of the last few places to still use charcoal for cooking, the laksa here at Sungei Road is lighter than the usual, without sacrificing on flavour. Instead of relying on rich coconut cream, the gravy employs a combination of spices with expertise, simmering their gravy to warm perfection over the glow of charcoal. Somehow, food cooked using charcoal fire, like dumplings, have a taste different from those with a gas stove. This means you are easily able to finish one – maybe two for the guys – without feeling jelat. Its cheap price does not mean skimping on ingredients either, for our bowl arrived with a generous serving of cockles and fish cakes.
125 East Coast Road, Singapore, 428810
Although more well-known for their Tau Kwa Pau, a Teochew Nyonya dish that combines soft firm tofu encased in a crispy shell with fish strips, yam, egg, crunchy cucumber, and five-spiced fish cake, the laksa here is a hidden gem that hasn’t changed its taste through the years. Fresh and rich with aromatic spices and dried shrimp, the laksa here looks a lot more fiery and comes with sweet prawns, taupok and fishcakes.
Block 928 Yishun, Central 1, 01-155, Singapore, 760928
This small eatery located all the way in the north of Singapore may be no-frills in its appearance, but much decorated in reputation. Recognisable by its perpetual queue and various framed accolades, the stall sells really affordable laksa priced at a mere $2.50 for a small or $3 for large. Each bowl comes with cockles, beansprouts, hard boiled egg, fish cakes, taupok, topping gravy that is not oily nor overwhelmingly rich. Should you need something to cool you down from the lack of aircon, the stall right beside sells traditional icy-cold desserts to round the meal off.
119 Bukit Merah Lane 1, 01-75, Singapore, 150119
Thick and rich laksa is steamed in a claypot before serving, ensuring the fragrance is maintained and permeates every mouthful of noodles. It is unapologetically spicy and lemak, and is completed by large cockles and taupok. If you’re not worried about cholesterol levels, mop up the remaining gravy with crispy dough fritters or roti prata – it’s sinful, but very worth it.
What do you think of our list of the best laksa in Singapore? What’s your favourite?