Tan Kee Cathay Laksa 陈记国泰辣沙

Since it was a food trail with Tony, I would not be limited to one meal, right? But we were trapped by the rain and we were on foot. The heavy downpour in fact turned out for the better. Tony has blogged on all the stalls in Restoran Shang Ji, including the Braised Duck stall that was not operating that day. Why did I say it turned out for the better? For one thing, all the stall holders were very friendly. Except for Tin & Tin Cathay Beef Noodles, the father and son were on the shy side. Mr. Ah Teng only smiled when I asked if his fare was Hainanese Beef Noodles. He quickly asked if I’m Hainanese. I answered yes and that broke the ice. He enquired if I spoke the dialect and I replied in my limited but humorous exchange. We spoke a little more. Hainanese, a minority of the Chinese dialect group, where members have its priviledges 😉 If a Hainanese patronises a vendor of the same dialect group, chances are you’ll get an extra something on your plate. Sorry I digressed so let’s back to my next meal.

I started eating from left to right. And even jumped over to another restoran at the end of the block for my 4th meal.

I started eating from left to right. And even jumped over to another restoran at the end of the block for my 4th meal.

While I was gobbling the remains of my lai fun from Tin & Tin, I saw a couple of guys (at separate tables) enjoying their noodles. They had different bowls, one melamine and one porcelain. As usual, my eyes rovers whenever I’m eating. I can’t help the gourmand in me. So I searched for the stalls. In fact, the two men had patronised the same stall. Maybe the difference in price led to different types of bowls being used so that the stallholder know how much to charge – much like the colour code pricing system of sushi trains.

Food spotting victim number 1. Can you see the rain was pouring in the background?

Food spotting victim number 1.
Can you see the rain was pouring in the background?

Food spotting victim number 2. I want that too even though I have no idea from which stall he bought.

Food spotting victim number 2.
I want that too even though I have no idea from which stall he bought.

And so the hunt began. Mrs. Tan had been bobbing around us while we were having our beef noodle meal. Tony has blogged on her fare before and she appreciated it so much, she was eager to serve him another bowl. She was not pushy but genuinely chatty and bubbly. She offered to get me some drinks but I declined as I already have Kopi Peng (Malaya coffeeshop term for iced coffee).

A quick note: When I use the word Malaya (now obsolete due to its connotations of the British colonial era), it is to include Malaysia and Singapore.

Until 1946, and for some time afterwards, the term Malaya included Singapore. In Singaporean law, the term “Malaya” includes Singapore, but the term “States of Malaya” does not. In Singapore law, Malaya means the States of Malaya (also known as Peninsular Malaysia) together with Singapore (1946–present).

Never mind the confusion, the word Malaya used in my posts has nothing to do with political entities but rather geographical connotations.

Back on track.

My second meal in JB (Johor Bahru) was from this very cheerful and chatty lady. I know she looked serious but that's because she making her chilli sauce and giving it all her attention!

My second meal in JB (Johor Bahru) was from this very cheerful and chatty lady. I know she looked serious but that’s because she making her chilli sauce and giving it all her attention!

I loved watching this couple at work. They seemed to take their trade very seriously.<br />Yet, whenever Mrs. Tan encountered some difficulty, Mr. Tan would be there to assist her. Pouring the water and wiping the brim clean before handing the bowl back to her. She continued to stir and ocassionally looked up at him as if seeking his approval. Their communication was soft, like whispering sweet nothings.<br />I think I gawked at them for a good 10 minutes. I was in awe actually.

I loved watching this couple at work. They seemed to take their trade very seriously.
Yet, whenever Mrs. Tan encountered some difficulty, Mr. Tan would be there to assist her. Pouring the water and wiping the brim clean before handing the bowl back to her. She continued to stir and ocassionally looked up at him as if seeking his approval. Their communication was soft, like whispering sweet nothings.
I think I gawked at them for a good 10 minutes. I was in awe actually.

Mr. Tan has been in the Laksa trade for 41 years. He has been selling this type of laksa with his wife for 16 years and moved to this restoran for about slightly over 2 years.

While watching the couple at work, I suddenly noticed the orange melamine bowl. Found it!

While watching the couple at work, I suddenly noticed the orange melamine bowl. Found it!

Aha! Found out that the two dishes I was eyeing were actually patronised from the same stall.

Aha!
Found out that the two dishes I was eyeing were actually patronised from the same stall.

According to Mrs. Tan, their laksa gravy stock is made of soy beans and ikan bilis and their own recipe of curry paste. There’s no chicken or pork bones used. The fishballs (from wolf herring) are hand made daily and then deep-fried till golden. The taukwa (firm tofu) are bought from the wet market and they also deep fry these themselves. The taukee are cut into small squares and deep fried too. When there are no sales, these ingredients are covered with muslin cloth to prevent dust and houseflies gathering. They offered 3 types of noodles, beehoon, yellow noodles and kway teow.

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan culture, which is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements found in Indonesia, and Malaya.

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan culture, which is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements found in Indonesia, and Malaya.

Mr. Tan’s stall is very well kept. He cleans the counter top (spotless) after cooking each time. I’m very impressed with the stallholder’s cleanliness.

The origin of the name "laksa" is unclear.<br />It has also been suggested that "laksa" may derive from the Chinese word 辣沙, meaning "spicy sand" due to the ground dried prawns which gives a sandy or gritty texture to the sauce. Having said that, Mr. Tan's curry mee (laksa) does not have shrimps nor laksa leaves commonly found in the standard laksa fare.

The origin of the name “laksa” is unclear.
It has also been suggested that “laksa” may derive from the Chinese word 辣沙, meaning “spicy sand” due to the ground dried prawns which gives a sandy or gritty texture to the sauce.
Having said that, Mr. Tan’s curry mee (laksa) does not have shrimps nor laksa leaves commonly found in the standard laksa fare.

Mrs. Tan has confided in me that they use only ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and soya beans for stock base and their homemade curry recipe.

Mrs. Tan has confided in me that they use only ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and soya beans for stock base and their homemade curry recipe.

The specialty was their handmade wolf herring fish balls.

The specialty was their handmade wolf herring fish balls.

Choose your noodles, name the size/price and Mr. Tan will do the rest. A regular bowl costs MYR5. You can opt for additional secondary ingredients.

Choose your noodles, name the size/price and Mr. Tan will do the rest.
A regular bowl costs MYR5. You can opt for additional secondary ingredients.

There are 4 main secondary ingredients in Mr. Tan's Laksa.

There are 4 main secondary ingredients in Mr. Tan’s Laksa.

Fish Balls, Cockles, Taukwa (firm tofu) and Taukee (bean skin). All of them have been deep-fried except for the cockles.

Fish Balls, Cockles, Taukwa (firm tofu) and Taukee (bean skin).
All of them have been deep-fried except for the cockles.

The taukwa shown here are bought from the wet market but fried by the Tans daily.

The taukwa shown here are bought from the wet market but fried by the Tans daily.

The Taukee (bean skin) are cut neatly into squares and deep-fried too.

The Taukee (bean skin) are cut neatly into squares and deep-fried too.

Attentive and observant, Mrs. Tan gave us two bowls and even topped up our soup later.

Attentive and observant, Mrs. Tan gave us two bowls and even topped up our soup later.

We had beehoon, rice vermicelli, for this dish.

We had beehoon, rice vermicelli, for this dish.

And before I gobble up the last taukwa and slurp up the soup, this is how the curry looked ;-)

And before I gobble up the last taukwa and slurp up the soup, this is how the curry looked 😉

Mr. and Mrs. Tan of Tan Kee Cathay Laksa 陈记国泰辣沙

Mr. and Mrs. Tan of Tan Kee Cathay Laksa 陈记国泰辣沙

Mr. Tan is man of few words while Mrs. Tan is very chatty and smiling all the time. I had the chance to notice the couple in action. They seemed to be very loving even at work. Mr. Tan would pour the water into the chilli bowl while Mrs. Tan stirs it. Whenever she encountered some difficulty, he would be there to assist her. Mrs. Tan portayed admiration when describing Mr. Tan’s career.

We had the beehoon which Tony said would better absorb the gravy rendering the meal even more tasty. On first bite of the fishball, there was fishy taste, not in a bad way but the natural taste of wolf herring. The taukwa had a wrinkly texture outside and tender “creamy” inside. The crispy bean skin was not boiled in the gravy but only added when ready to serve (topped with gravy). The gravy had a wonderful aroma and natural sweet taste from the anchovies and soy beans. I am delighted with the thin version of gravy. I could drink the soup which was fragrant and not overly lemak (Malay word for rich tasting food).

Two thumbs up for food and service. A must try if you’re in the neighbourhood. But then again, they aren’t easily accessible so one must make a purposeful trip to Restoran Shang Ji. It is worth it!

Besides good tasting food and friendly V.I.P. like service, the stall's hygiene has my vote of confidence.

Besides good tasting food and friendly V.I.P. like service, the stall’s hygiene has my vote of confidence.

Tan Kee Cathay Laksa 陈记国泰辣沙. Standard order at MYR5.

Tan Kee Cathay Laksa 陈记国泰辣沙.
Standard order at MYR5.

Tan Kee Cathay Laksa 陈记国泰辣沙
Inside Restoran Shang Ji.
141-142, Jalan Lumba Kuda,
Bukit Chagar 80300,
Johor Bahru, Johor.
Malaysia.

Opening hours: 7am – 2pm
Closed on Mondays.

Happy food trailing 😀

Some of the information found on this post is due credit to Wikipedia.

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Comments
8 Responses to “Tan Kee Cathay Laksa 陈记国泰辣沙”
  1. audreyyoung7 says:

    Yum! You made me want to have laksa now!

  2. Laura Lynn says:

    What a lovely couple! You seem to bring out the best in people, and the best of their food, too. Lucky girl, you have such fun sleuthing the food stalls. I wish we had such a thing here.

    • Sam Han says:

      Laura, as you may know by now, eating is a national sport in Singapore. Food photography with DSLR, point and shoot and even phone cameras are like saying grace before meal time so it is not weird doing it here. Malaysia is also having the same trend. I’m lucky to be in this environment that has helped me in my chosen topic for blogging. I try to see the best in people so that they will also try to see my best. Like you said, I am having fun. Perhaps you can start the trend in your part of the world? 😀

  3. Lignum Draco says:

    My wordpress reader is going wonky. This post just appeared!

    Laksa! You had me at hello. 🙂

    • Sam Han says:

      I think wordpress has been going wonky last few months. Mouse and I are facing the same problemo 😦 Had you at hello? Don’t ever say goodbye, lol… 😉

      • Lignum Draco says:

        Once I did a post but didn’t upload till 5 days later. For some reason it never showed up on the reader. I deleted it and reposted it immediately and there was no problem. Now I edit and update all posts within an hour of posting and that problem seems to have stopped.

      • Sam Han says:

        My readers’ comments aren’t even showing. Sometimes I go to old posts only then do I chance upon comments on previous posts. I will see if your method works for me. Thanks for the heads up 😀

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