Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Travel: Best Katong Laksa in Singapore? - 328 Katong Laksa vs. Mary's Corner Katong Laksa (& Yong Huat Noodles Stall) @ East Coast Road, Singapore

On our second day in Singapore, we had a lunch appointment with Suk Kwan, one of Wendy's best friends from secondary school. Lunch was fixed at 12:30pm, but that didn't stop us from making sure we got a good dose of Katong laksa first! =D

Katong laksa is the quintessential hawker fare for Singaporeans - in fact, I'd reckon it's what nasi lemak is to us Malaysians.

Wendy first introduced me to Katong laksa back in 2008 when we made our first trip to Singapore together with our uni mates, shortly after we started dating. Since then I have always thought of it as SingaporeKatong laksa! This time we were determined to try the most recommended one, and a google search told us 328 Katong Laksa was one of the best, so off we went to one of their many branches after expansion.

(However, when we told our cabbie, an old Singaporean uncle, he grumbled at the fact that there was no good, authentic Katong laksa left in the whole of Singapore, and if we really must have it, 328 was okay...lah.) Still, he drove us to our location, and bid us good luck.

There's really nothing else to eat at 328 Katong Laksa except  Katong laksa and some other light bites like otak-otak and small packets of nasi lemak wrapped in pandan leaves. The inside looks modern enough, but most of the seating is outside.

Of course, every famous place must have its testimonials. 328 doesn't seem to lack in this department, with pictures of smiling celebrity faces (Donnie Yen, Tony Leung, and TVB stars Raymond Lam & Wong Hei, to name a few) lining the very long wall. There were hardly any people when we visited though, probably because it was only 11+ and the lunch crowd hadn't arrived yet. 

To the uninitiated, Katong laksa looks and tastes a lot like our curry mee here in Malaysia, except with short strands of rice glass noodles and a lot more coconut santan (coconut milk) in the soup. The broth should be thick and creamy with shrimp paste and finely chopped dried shrimps, and lengkuas (galangal) and serai (lemongrass) for taste. There must also be half a spoon full of dried daun kesum, or dried laksa leaf, to mix in after serving. It's usually served with a spoon, and that's all you use to slurp scoop after scoop of laksa goodness.

The above is what we got for a medium portion at SGD5. Ordering is simple; there's only 3 sizes; small, medium, or large!

We only ordered one medium bowl to share because we were expecting to eat more at lunch. It turned out to be a wise decision, because this laksa wasn't all it was hyped up to be!

For all the rave reviews we had read, we were very disappointed with the result. The soup was not thick enough, nor was there enough coconut or spices in the soup. There was a moderate serving of prawns, sliced fishcake, and cockles, but that is expected at Singapore coffee shops. We didn't even finish the bowl, which is a mark of how bad it was considering 2 of us were sharing this! 

We were so disappointed with the laksa at 328 Katong Laksa, we decided to try and save the morning by looking for the stall where we had the same Katong laksa the first time back in 2008.

We weren't entirely sure where it was, but we remembered it was along the same road and I remembered it was a corner coffeeshop. So armed with that little bit of info we trekked up East Coast Road to the intersection with Joo Chiat Road and found it! The name has changed to a very silly-sounding Ali BaBa Eating House, but the unmistakable architecture of the building gave it away!

(We later learnt that Ali BaBa Eating House's name is actually a play on words. In Chinese, it is 阿里巴巴一定好 - "Ali Baba yi ting hao", which means "definitely good". But say it out loud: yi ting hao, eating house, get it? :D)

The inside looks just like any normal Malaysian coffeeshop, only that it has wi-fi =P There aren't that many tables, but somehow we've been lucky each time. In fact, we got the same table that we sat at the last time we came in 2008! Coincidence, no?

We were only there for the Katong laksa, but the stall in question that sells it (Mary's Corner) actually does a variety of other dishes.

If you've got it, flaunt it! Mary's Corner proudly displays the award it won for its laksa and tau kwa pau, so you know you're eating something that's award-winning. If we hadn't wasted our stomachs on the 328 Katong Laksa we would have tried the tau kwa pau too (which it is more well known for. Alas, our tummies just couldn't take in anymore. 

Take a look at that bowl of Katong laksa. Now scroll up and look again at the one we had at 328. See the difference in the colour of the soup? See the serving of the herbs used here compared to the ground up bits used in 328? Bar the chopsticks (which purists argue shouldn't have a place at a Katong laksa bowl), Mary's Katong Laksa (SGD 5) is what we thought Katong laksa should taste and look like. The slightly sweet broth was creamy and rich with flavour from the herbs and dried shrimp, and the prawns were so fresh! We gladly slurped up every drop of this.  

I'm glad to report that the taste has hardly changed from what we remember, and we really recommend this place to anyone on the hunt for Katong laksa! We'll definitely be back here the next time we're in Singapore.

Yong Huat's stall

Here's a secret though - Mary's Katong Laksa isn't the only thing worth having at Ali Baba Eating House! Next to Mary's stall is another stall, named Yong Huat, selling fried noodles, and this is where the most awesome fried mee sua (thin Chinese wheat noodles) can be found!

We are accustomed to fried mee sua that is dry, but these noodles are special because its moist and full of smoky wok flavour, yet not drowned in gravy. I find that to be pure genius because it unclumps the noodles and makes it easier to eat. There's also a generous serving of egg and vegetables fried into the noodle, and a lot of prawns, cuttlefish, and other meats fried in. The winning condiment? A generous sprinkling of crunchy, crackly pork lard! No, not for the faint hearted, this one.

At a price of SGD5, this is a dish that I would have everyday for lunch if I could! 

So in the end, we left Katong with our stomachs bursting at the seams, big satisfied smiles across our faces! Our eating was hardly over though, because we were heading straight for our lunch appointment. /'splodes with food

But that's a story for another day! Anyway, suffice to say that  Katong laksa still holds a special place in our stomachs hearts, and we're glad that Mary's Corner is still whipping up bowl after bowl of satan santan goodness! =D

p/s: We heard that there's also another stall by the name of Saveur in Ali BaBa Eating House that does really good French food. French food in a kopitiam? We are most definitely intrigued! Hopefully we'll get to return soon for that.


328 Katong Laksa
216 East Coast Road
Katong, Singapore
Tel: +65 9732 8963
Opening Hours: 8.30am to 9pm

Mary's Katong Laksa & Yong Huat
Ali BaBa Eating House,
Intersection of Joo Chiat Road and East Coast Road
125 and 127 East Coast Road,
Singapore 428810
Opening Hours: Daily, 8am-7:30pm

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