CHAR­COAL-COOKED NONYA LAKSA

SALT Magazine - - Feature - Madam Liew’s Recipes (727 East Coast Road. 3838 Cof­feeshop Next to Siglap Cen­tre)

At Madam Liew’s Recipes, a huge metal caul­dron of or­ange-red gravy bub­bles over a small char­coal stove. This Siglap stall, one of the hand­ful of places that still serve char­coal-cooked lak­sas, is manned by owner Les­lie Chua. How­ever, it is his 87-year-old mother, Madam Liew Kiaw Hoon, who pro­tec­tively safe­guards the pre­cious rem­pah.

Born in Pon­tian, Johor, the sprightly lady in­sists on pre­par­ing all the spices from scratch.

She spends more than five hours painstak­ingly clean­ing, peel­ing and chop­ping a moun­tain of galan­gal, shal­lots, lemon­grass, onions, among other in­gre­di­ents. “I spend an­other five hours to stir-fry the rem­pah over char­coal un­til it’s dry,” says Liew, adding that it’s tough work, but it’s the only way to en­sure the taste is right. The rem­pah is melded with dried shrimps, lend­ing a rich flavour to the co­conut-laced gravy. “Back in the early 1970s, my mum first learned how to make Nonya laksa from a Teochew Nonya neigh­bour, Aunty Heng (who used to own a croc­o­dile farm). Over the years, my mum im­proved the recipe by adding more spices and en­hanc­ing the flavour,” shares Chua. To cre­ate a pure seafood stock, Liew also in­sists on us­ing just prawn heads and ikan bil­lis.

“At home, my mum of­ten cooked this laksa for friends who would come over for Sun­day brunch. The laksa along with her popiah was a hit with ev­ery­one,” says Chua, whose friends en­cour­aged him to con­tinue his mother’s legacy. Hence Madam Liew’s Recipes was launched in 2017. This stall’s ver­sion is topped with mar­ket-fresh cock­les and prawns from Gey­lang Serai, and laksa leaves sourced from Pon­tian.

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