On a cold and wet day, there's nothing Singaporeans love more than a fiery bowl of laksa – with extra sambal, of course. While everyone knows of the famous Katong laksa that even Gordon Ramsey loves, is it truly the best bowl of spicy coconutty broth around? We scour the city and try four famous laksa stalls to see which one comes out on top.
Depot Road Zhen Shan Mei Claypot Laksa might have a Michelin Bib Gourmand award but it's our least favourite bowl. Instead of a consistently lemak broth, the gravy split into two layers: a thicker, more intensely flavoured top and a thinner soupy bottom that lets the dish down. We don't think the claypot adds anything to the taste either, aside from presentation and keeping it warm for longer. For the price you're paying ($4-$6), there are barely any ingredients to go around. Top that off with a long queue in the heat – we'd rather get our laksa elsewhere.
The most commercialised of the lot, 328’s laksa ($5.35-$7.50) still hits the right notes as it lets you scoop all the good stuff into one spoonful – even the fishcake is thinly sliced so you’ll get a bite of it along with prawns, beansprouts and cockles. The broth itself is thick and coconut-y, which may to too jelat for some. But not us. And while you’re at one of its many outlets, don’t forget to order a slice of otah ($1.40) to accompany the dish. We're just annoyed that we only get one little packet of sambal now instead of a whole jar of the stuff.
Not to be confused with the other Sungei Road laksa stall, the one in Hong Lim Food Centre is just as well loved for its fruit juice mee siam as its laksa ($3). The laksa gravy doesn't have the red hue we're accustomed to and its consistency is thinner than most but it still packs quite a punch, so no complaints here. You get quite a lot of liao, including strips of chicken, for such a cheap bowl too.
With only one thing on the menu, this humble eatery has been in business since 1956 and still rakes in long queues every day. Its laksa gravy, cooked the old-school way over charcoal, is light and not too spicy – that’s what the sambal is for. Stir it in if you want more heat in your bowl ($3). Topped only with fishcake and the plumpest cockles we've ever seen, you’ll polish off a whole bowl in under 5 minutes so we recommend getting two. Trust us.