CLAYPOT LAKSA

SALT Magazine - - Feature - De­pot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa (120 Bukit Merah Lane 1, #01-75 Alexan­dra Vil­lage)

Do you have any ad­vice for bud­ding hawk­ers? Zhang Ji

Lin laughs at this ques­tion, then pauses to con­sider it se­ri­ously. “Keep your­self grounded,” he says. Very aptly, stay­ing grounded is a theme that runs through Zhang’s life. Zhang made the de­ci­sion to in­herit De­pot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa 13 years ago from his aunt when her chil­dren didn’t want it, be­cause he felt that it would be a shame to let this lo­cal del­i­cacy, and his aunt’s legacy fade away.

Ma­noeu­vring the clay­pots that the laksa are cooked in also re­quires a cer­tain sense of ground­ed­ness. Zhang han­dles th­ese clay­pots nim­bly, but it is no se­cret that they are heavy—care is taken to wash th­ese frag­ile ves­sels, but in­evitably, some break ev­ery month. This in­con­ve­nience has not pre­vented Zhang from cook­ing his laksa in clay­pots. “Clay­pots re­tain the flavours and fra­grance of the laksa, and helps to keep the laksa warm. That way, the noo­dles ab­sorb the soup be­cause of this heat re­ten­tion”. And it’s true—the laksa be­comes tastier the fur­ther down the bowl we go, with the rice noo­dles seem­ingly soaked with broth.

When a cus­tomer places an or­der, Zhang blasts each laksa-filled claypot over high heat for three to four min­utes. With only three stoves in his store, it’s no won­der that there’s al­ways a queue for his lak­sas. Of course, a broth that uses fresh co­conut milk, freshly-pounded turmeric, and that fi­nal touch of spoon­ing a spiced co­conut cream (akin to a re­duced ver­sion of his broth) over the top of the dish has cer­tainly helped win fans over the years. “I’d also tell young hawk­ers to take things one step at a time”, says Zhang. De­spite hav­ing a de­sire to ex­pand the busi­ness, but no fam­ily member keen on join­ing the trade, Zhang steadily paces on, serv­ing up the legacy of his fam­ily’s laksa, one claypot at a time.

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