This is a shoutout and a standing ovation to the hawkers who offer just one dish- the one dish entrepreneurs. In our very fickle food nation today, crowded with new players every day and noisy with all sorts or promotional gongs and drumbeats, it’s hard to actually hear your own thoughts on what really matters to your palate these days. Point in case- to get enough buy-in, the kaya toast chains have to now offer all sorts of warm and savoury meals like a braised chicken rice, mee rebus and even otak sandwiches, just to entice you to load up further with toast and wash it down with coffee or tea. I admire these one flavour soldiers and it is not as easy as just putting one item up on your menu and pray the hungry hordes to pay homage to your stall. Not many hawkers will offer just one dish and I salute those who do. You see a few of them offering chicken rice, cha kway teow, prawn mee soup, rojak, fried hokkien mee, nasi lemak and a few others. Many hawkers will combine a few items where they can by using the same stock or ingredients- like kway chap and braised duck. Remember McDonald’s and even KFC are essentially one dish specialist but included a few side shows in the menu to add to the allure.
But not George Ng of Katong Laksa. He is in his mid 60s and had hawked his brand of Nonya laksa for 46 years. “My late father learnt it from the legendary Janggot in Katong when he operated a provision shop” and George also reveals he started in the 70s in a hawker stall in Chai Chee and moved about the east over the years. I asked why just laksa, and “because it’s the only dish I know” but he does this exceptionally well. You can taste it in his all-important own-made Laksa rempah or spice paste. It does not taste like what many cafes and even hotels offer- a more than acceptable version that came out of good grade commercially made packs. George’s version is balanced, no one spice stands out- not the blue ginger, lemon grass, nor the dried shrimps. It’s just taste like, laksa, complex and moreish. And this is the reason why he can command a loyal following all these years with just that one dish- he is a true one dish master.
The thick beehoon used are vintage old school- tastes more like rice than the smooth chewy versions made with some potato starch. And the cockles, which isn’t an original Nonya Laksa topping but made popular by demand over the decades, hails from Indonesia as our regular Malaysian sourced ones are too small, pricier and not enough supply of late. And in keeping the faith, he blanches the beehoon in the simmering laksa curry and tops it with prawns, fish cakes, a healthy bunch of laksa leaves and bean sprouts.
Chat with George when you are there, he is very talkative and will proudly tell you about his story and Nonya food heritage.
307, Changi Road
8am-3pm, closed alternate Tuesday
Tel: 9023 7360