In my opinion, if there's one thing that anyone who's lived in Singapore misses once they leave the place, its the food. Although there are some pretty good Thai and Malaysian restaurants in Atlanta, getting authentic Singapore fare is almost impossible.
Some of the best food in Singapore is not available in restaurants, but in hawker centers or food courts. For those unfamiliar with the concept, these are open air complexes, with numerous varieties of food stalls by independent vendors. Here is a picture of Newton Hawker Center in Singapore at 2am! Yes, that's another speciality of Singapore....the city never sleeps and people never stop feeling hungry.
Back when we were undergrads cramming the last week before our exams, we'd just walk down to Fong Seng, a popular NUS hangout on Pasir Panjang Road sometime around 2 or 3 am. Here's a pic of the place I found!! The place gets crowded only wayyy after midnight with everyone turning up for their supper. *Sigh* the good 'ol days!!!
Sorry for the digression, and back to my story. When I started working, I frequented this excellent vegetarian stall in Alexandra village. Every Thursday, the guy sold Laksa - not just any laksa, but one of the best I've had ever (the other was in Orchard Emerald, but sadly its closed down!). Traditionally Laksa Lemak or Curry Laksa contains shrimp, fish ball and chicken (among other things non-vegetarian), but the vendor used to substitute it with mock meat (not just the seitan kind) of everything.
Ever since I've come to Atlanta, I've looked hard for some quality mock meat, but only had moderate success at the Chamblee Farmers Market. Recently we went to this veg restaurant on Monroe called Green Sprouts and I mustered up courage to ask the guy where they got their mock meat from! Yea ...I do things like this and sometimes embarass K...but hey...it was definitely worth it! We found all that we wanted and could ask for at Ranch Market on Buford Highway (there...the secret is out!). K also got a stone mortar and pestle that he's been eyeing for a long time!! Well...the bargain was, he'd make Laksa for me...he kept his side of the bargain and that too very well! Here's K's own creation... Laksa Lemak!
Rempah (for the recipe...click here)
Sambal bajak to taste
3 cups veg stock
3 cups coconut milk (use a combi of normal and lite)
Mock chicken, fishballs and prawns
Deep fried tofu (cut in half to absorb the sauce…yum!)
Hard-boiled eggs - 2
Laksa leaves (aka Vietnamese mint – very important and crucial otherwise you don't get the flavor!)
Bean spouts (not in the pic)
Salt and sugar to taste
- In some oil, fry the rempah paste until fragrant, oil separates and color deepens.
- Add stock and bring to boil
- Add coconut milk and simmer (The longer the better! )
- Now add the mock chicken, fishballs, shrimp, fried tofu puffs, salt and sugar.
- Bean sprouts should be put in 1 min before serving.
- In a separate saucepan, bring water to boil and blanch the rice noodles until cooked and serve in serving bowl with a bit of sambal bajak. (if you cut the noodles into small spoon-able pieces, its called Katong Laksa)
- Pour the laksa lemak over the noodles.
- Garnish with finely chopped laksa leaves and halved boiled egg.
- There you go....sedap di makan! (good to eat)