Sungei Road Laksa 结霜桥叻沙

Photo courtesy of Kelvin Ong.<br />Kelvin is a member in one of my photography kaki groups and has graciously allowed me to use this photo as this main character of the stall, Mr. Wong, was not there the day I visited.<br />Thank you, Kelvin Ong.

Photo courtesy of Kelvin Ong.
Kelvin is a member in one of my photography kaki groups and has graciously allowed me to use this photo as this main character of the stall, Mr. Wong, was not there the day I visited.
Thank you, Kelvin Ong.

Despite its humble origin, the Sungei Road laksa is so famous even Wikipedia has information on it.

Sungei Road (literally River Road) is a road in Singapore situated between Serangoon Road and Jalan Besar and runs along the Rochor Canal. The area around Sungei Road was formerly the homes of affluent Europeans and Asians, where many ornately designed buildings were built in its place. From the 1930s to the present, the road has been synonymous with the Thieves’ Market, the largest and oldest flea market in Singapore, where the locals can hunt for old bric-a-brac or second-hand goods, as a cheap replacement for one’s faulty or lost item. It’s also the place where the well-known Sungei Road Laksa, a local spicy noodle soup originated. Sungei Road was also known as “Kek Sng Kio” in hokkien dialect or “结霜桥” in Chinese. The name was made in reference to the Singapore Ice Works which used to exist in the precinct.

Located nearby at Jin Shui Kopitiam (“kopitiam” means “coffeeshop” in Hokkien) is a stall selling Sungei Road laksa, a local spicy noodle soup that originated from Peranakan culture. The founder, Wong Yew Hwa uses charcoal fire to keep his gravy constantly warm in order to maintain its distinctive flavour. His laksa dish was listed by a local food guide as one of the top 10 dishes in Singapore.

The Sungei Road laksa legacy was started in 1956 when a Hainanese friend of Wong, Ah Tong, gave Wong and his brother Wong Yew Poh, his secret recipe for laksa on account of their long-standing friendship. The Wong brothers set up a push-cart stall to sell their laksa and the response to their recipe was overwhelming. It was sold with the thick bee hoon (Chinese noodle) cut up and served only with a spoon, without chopsticks, topped with cockles, bean sprouts and home-made fried fish cakes in distinctive chicken motif bowls. Customers ate it while standing by the roadside and it cost only 20 cents a bowl back then. By day, they sold along Johor Road and by night, off Sungei Road. Today, the brothers have since lost contact with Ah Tong, but their children still serve the traditional recipe with its unique way of serving at a very reasonable price. Info credit – Wikipedia

The Sungei Road Laksa may have its origins from the Peranakan culture but I believe Ah Tong, the Hainanese friend of the Wongs, must have had the recipe tweaked as the coconut gravy is not as rich as the traditional Nonya (Peranakan) Laksa. Even with its (recipe) modification, the Sungei Road Laksa has been termed “traditional”, “local” and “authentic”.

Keef was the first person who brought me here more than 10 years ago. I did not enjoy it as much as I do now. I have mentioned in my previous post that my taste for certain food has changed. I am also less tolerant of spicy and coconut-gravy-based food and Laksa falls into this category.

Sungei Road Laksa - S$2 The laksa comes with sliced fish cakes and you opt with or without the cockles and chilli paste.

Sungei Road Laksa – S$2
The laksa comes with sliced fish cakes and you opt with or without the cockles and chilli paste.

At about 5 minutes before 1pm on the 6th November 2013, I had Sungei Road Laksa for the second time in my life. This second lunch was in the same shop located inside Top 33 Kopitiam I had a decade ago (read about my first lunch in the next post). This time, old Wong wasn’t there. Two or three ladies manned the stall which had a long queue as I cynically expected – for at $2 a bowl, it is ridiculously cheap and I fear taste may become secondary in expensive Singapore. This concern however does not hold water here as I found out soon enough.

I was having my “first” lunch with The Silver Chef and Yummicraft at a nearby location when they said they haven’t had Sungei Road Laksa for sometime now and wondered if I had tasted it before. I said I have and it did not make a strong impression. I was accustomed to the very lemak (rich and creamy) coconut gravy of the Nonya version, which easily contained a ratio of 1:3 (coconut milk:broth) if not 50%. Yes, that’s how heavy I liked my laksa gravy to be… Right up until now. I still enjoy Katong Laksa (famous term for Nonya laksa) but I think my weak tummy cannot partake any more of it – sign of aging. Hence, this time, the tasting of Sungei Road Laksa was more or less scrutinised with a critic’s tongue! To see if I could really stomach a weak version of laksa and like it.

10 years later... I still love cockles aplenty but I have also learn to appreciate Sungei Road Laksa for its distinctive not so excessively rich yet flavoursome gravy.

10 years later…
I still love cockles aplenty but I have also learn to appreciate Sungei Road Laksa for its distinctive not so excessively rich yet flavoursome gravy.

The creaminess and viscosity of the gravy definitely paled in comparison to Nonya laksa on first taste. I kept an open mind and mouth… Although it was not lemak enough for me, the flavour of the hae bee (dried shrimp) and curry spices were intense and its undertones vocalised with each subsequent spoonfuls. Fragrantly perfumed with shredded daun kesom (laksa leaves or Polygonum odoratum) each purposeful tasting of this spicy noodle dish was faultless, if I were to abandon my partiality to compare it to the Nonya version, simply because this is not Katong Laksa.

I loved Nonya (Katong) Laksa and I wouldn’t want to stop eating it as long as my tummy can stomach it. Nevertheless, I have also learnt to appreciate Sungei Road Laksa, for its assets lies not in the rich coconut cream, but in the superb balancing of aromatic spices employed and in the tempering of the gravy being kept warm at palatable level by glowing charcoals. And if I hadn’t had lunch earlier, I could easily have another one or two more bowls.

Sungei Road Laksa at Top 33 Kopitiam.

Sungei Road Laksa at Top 33 Kopitiam.

Sungei Road Laksa 结霜桥叻沙
Block 27, Jalan Berseh.
#01-100 Jin Shui Kopitiam.
Singapore 200027.

Operating hours:9am – 6pm
(Closed: 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month).

Happy eating 🙂

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Comments
4 Responses to “Sungei Road Laksa 结霜桥叻沙”
  1. Lignum Draco says:

    I initially thought S$2 was a misprint, but apparently not. It looks like a decent meal for that price. I do like a nice rich seafood laksa, often with extra XO sauce and chilli sauce.

    • Sam Han says:

      XO sauce in laksa? It must be very upmarket, lol… we don’t get it here with XO sauce (which is very Cantonese, btw).
      Traditionally, laksa is a hokkien or nonya dish although some teochew sells them, too.
      Who knows? Some hawkers/restauranteur might see your comments and add in XO sauce and up the price, lol… 😉
      I will bring my own XO sauce and put some in to try next time. sounds delicious!

  2. Laura Lynn says:

    Looks so yummy! Someday I’m going to come and eat everything there! Everything! Down to the last cockle. But no hairy crab.

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