Madam Chen started selling laksa in 1992. With no reference point apart from a few recipe books and her observations of other laksa hawkers, she tested out iteration after iteration of laksa on her friends until she had their approval. The version she eventually settled on featured a broth with a hint of coconut milk, as opposed to the coconut milk-laden versions typical of Nonya-style laksa. “I chose this style because I felt it wouldn’t make my customers too ‘jelak’ (overwhelmed by rich flavours). It makes the whole experience tastier.” Stir a spoonful of the chunky homemade sambal brimming with hae bee (dried shrimp) into the light-bodied broth though, and it instantly thickens. Chen crowns her laksa with a generous amount of fish cake, tau pok, crab stick and cockles.
It’s no wonder that even at 9am, the non-descript stall is often littered with emptied red bowls. Chen, who’s now in her 60s says, “When I retire, I’d like to continue researching local food. It’s always been my interest.”