Have you ever tried something once and fallen in love with it, only to be disappointed the second time around? No, I’m not talking about your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. I’m still writing about food, specifically the sad tale of my laksa letdown.
It all began as we sat under the night sky at Lau Pa Sat with our Singapore-based friend Susanna. Jim and I asked her what other local foods we had to try during our time on the island.
(I love talking about “our time on the island.” It sounds so very Lost. Seriously, I cannot wait until the new season starts.)
After a short pause Susanna said, “Laksa. And you have to go to my favorite place, 328 Katong Laksa. It’s the best.”
Although I was having an intense satay experience at the time of this conversation, I immediately became excited at the mere thought of Peranakan laksa. I had tasted a spoonful of this rich, coconut milk-based soup the previous week during a work-related lunch. With that one sip, my taste buds were hooked on its spicy broth and smooth rice noodles. Now I couldn’t wait to indulge myself with an entire bowl.
A few days later Jim and I hopped in a cab and drove out to this famous yet unassuming storefront in the eastern suburbs. When the steaming bowls arrived at our table, the spoons were filled with crumbled laksa leaves, which we stirred into the soup right away. Then we started eating. (Slurping is more like it, but that really doesn’t sound very elegant.) Sweet coconut milk and spices such as chilli and galangal created a soothing broth with a mild undercurrent of heat, while broken rice noodles, bean sprouts, and small shrimp added welcome texture. I’ve since learned that these short rice noodles, which eliminate the need for chopsticks, are specific to the “Katong” style of laksa.
Here’s where my story takes a melancholy turn. Because if I were to be honest, I’d have to say that I left 328 Katong Laksa feeling slightly underwhelmed. For some reason I had expected a more powerful punch from this local dish. My lunch from 328 Katong Laksa seemed too mild, too gentle in comparison to the rich broth I had so briefly tasted the week before.
Had I idealized my first sip of laksa? Was I now doomed to wander the earth searching for the perfect bowl? Eh, there are worse things. I’m up for it.
328 Katong Laksa, located at 216 East Coast Road. Bowls of laksa cost about 3SGD each.