FEATURE: BOWFUL OF SOUL
Unearthing the many variations of laksa and their legacies.
Laksa: a heartwarming spicy dish that constitutes slurp-worthy rice noodles, fresh toppings and aromatic broth that’s delicious to the last drop. We delve into Singapore’s laksa legacy and the dish’s many variations.
Laksa—where did it come from, and who does it belong to? Perhaps a more important question might be: What exactly is laksa? At its very core, this dish is a spiced broth with noodles, found across the Malay Peninsula (which covers Singapore, Peninsular Malaysia, Southern Thailand and the southernmost tip of Myanmar).
However, any attempts at further componential analysis end there—regional variations abound with regards to the soup base, noodles, and toppings. Noodle types ranging from the more commonly used thick vermicelli or beehoon to more unusual rice rolls (Kelantan laksa) and sago noodles (Pelembang lakso) can be found. Although the noodles and toppings are essential in the laksa equation, the soul of the bowl is undeniably the boldy flavoured spicy broth. Broadly speaking, laksa soup can either be coconut milk-based, assam-based, or a mixture of both, with the choice of stock varying between prawn, pork bones, chicken or fish (often mackerel).
It would be impossible to chronicle all the different laksas available in Singapore however. Apart from the famed Katong laksa that even sparked a heated laksa rivalry among a few stalls back in 2000, there are also many variations of this beloved noodle dish that can be found on this tiny island, and each version is delicious in its own right. For many of these laksa masters, there’s no such thing as short-cuts. The cooks take pride in their rempah (spice blend) and well-infused stock. A couple of them even insist on using charcoal and claypots—laborious methods of yesteryear-—to rustle up their specialities. We embark on a laksa trail around the island, and discover that no two bowls are quite the same.
There are many different types of these beloved noodle dish that can be found on this tiny island, and each version is delicious in its own right. For most of these laksa masters, there’s no such thing as short cuts. The cooks take pride in their rempah (spice blend) and well-infused stock. A couple of them even insist on using charcoal and claypots to
rustle up their specialities.