October 17, 2016
My friend notified me about Penang Signature serving authentic Penang style laksa at Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre earlier this year, and I wanted to test the authenticity of the dish for myself.
I went down for lunch one afternoon, and as I approached the stall I could smell a strong aroma of the assam gravy that brought back memories of my travels in Penang.
Having tried the Penang style laksa before, I could imagine a bowl of sweet, spicy and sour-ish gravy containing chunks of flaky fish meat, birds eye chilli and slices of pineapple and cucumber that is poured over thick crystal white rice noodles.
Can I just say that the bowl of Assam laksa served here is everything I had imagined it to be.
I quickly placed my order and saw the owner pouring in the broth and pouring it out multiple times to allow the thick rice noodles absorb the hot piping gravy, ensuring that a sufficient amount of fish flakes are added to each bowl.
The plus point in doing so also helps to reduce the oiliness in the gravy, making it healthier and easier to eat.
The secret to a good bowl of Penang laksa is with the final touch of a drizzle of a sweet and salty prawn paste also known as ‘petis udang’ or ‘hae-ko’, The version here has a syrup-like texture and gives off a mellow pungent yet fragrant aroma to it.
Make sure you give the bowl of noodles a good mix before digging in as to allow all the flavours in the bowl to come together perfectly. I just couldn’t wait to dig in, but as always the camera gets to ‘eat’ first.
For an affordable price of $3.50, this bowl of rich brown gravy containing a variety of ingredients combine together harmoniously. Each spoonful of the gravy sends an intense jolt of sweet, spicy and tangy flavours flowing through one’s mouth. Of course with every good laksa, the gravy acts as the base in which all the flavours are built upon.
The sourness from the tamarind really helps to mask the fishy flavours of the sardines and ikan kembung (I suspect) that are used here, while the thin slices of cucumber and pineapple help to give the dish a refreshing taste while providing a contrast of crunch against the springy thick noodles. The lemon grass and red onions are added to bring out the subtle hints of sweetness in this dish.
Beware of the chilli padi though as it does pull its own weight in terms of bringing the heat in this dish.
According to the owner, Mr Chuan, the recipe for making this bowl of traditional Assam laksa comes from his wife who lives in between Penang and Ipoh.
The gravy for the laksa is prepared fresh daily by the owner in the morning before the crowd starts streaming in the afternoon. Do come early as the stall closes by the time they sell out!
I’m glad that in Singapore we still can get affordable and delicious tasting hawker dishes that do not compromise on the quality of their ingredients. My only hope is that Singaporeans will keep supporting them to continue Singapore’s establishment as one of the culinary destinations in the world.
Expected damage: $3.50