Lau Jiang Fishball Laksa Noodles was originally just Lau Jiang Fishball Noodles, a name that older Singaporeans may remember from the original stall at Alexandra.
That stall was set up in 1971 and moved to its current location at Happy Hawkers coffeeshop, which is less than a minute’s walk from Exit A of Tiong Bahru MRT Station (EW17). It is operated by the original hawker’s daughter, Alexandrea Eng.
She was obscured by steam, whipping up a storm with gusto when I arrived last week. The steam apparently didn’t obscure her vision— her smiling face cheerily called out, “Hello! Laksa Noodles for you?” when I had just reached the first table.
“Early bird catches the worm”, I thought, but that could just as easily be in reference to the stall’s 5am opening time.
What I tried at Lau Jiang Fishball Laksa Noodles
Fishball noodles are what launched this stall although the laksa seems to be their trending dish nowadays. You have 2 options for Laksa (S$5.50 for small, S$6.50 for large).
“How do you want it,” asked the lady hawker, “I can do it any way you like. If you want more ingredients and less noodles, can. The other way around, also can!” Deciding to trust her version, I replied, “Give me how you eat it yourself.”
She laughed and got right to work, tossing noodles and ingredients about with aplomb. Within a few minutes, I had a steaming bowl of delicious laksa at my table. Oh, man, it smelled good!
Then, there was the beauty of the sight. Rich, yellow laksa gravy speckled with orange, brown-yellow tau pok, a glimpse of white shredded chicken, and a fried dumpling doing its best imitation of an iceberg. Bright red sliced chilli, deeper red-brown sambal and a shower of green from chopped laksa leaf completed the scene.
Somewhere beneath the wealth of ingredients lay some yellow noodles, I was sure. When I went exploring with my chopsticks, I uncovered the noodles as well as taugeh, half a boiled egg and fish cake.
There were also about ten shucked hum (cockles). I even accidentally ate one later (not a fan).
My attention was drawn to the semi-submerged dumpling. It was a fried dumpling, sure, except it was flat and the skin was dark brown, unlike anything I had seen in laksa before. “Were they burnt?” I thought, cringing at the thought of bringing it up with the friendly Alexandrea. I built up the courage to take a bite.
Wow. Never judge a book by its cover, guys. This simple little thing was a masterpiece in disguise.
I sat down with Alexandrea after I ate because I had to know about these dumplings. She revealed that each one is created with a layer of fish paste, followed by a layer of minced meat, and then a string of secret ingredients.
That delicious taste was partly also due to the delicious triangular delights absorbing the wonderful laksa soup. The soup was especially lovely for the tau pok (which I love anyway) because they are so absorbent and soaked up all the creamy goodness.
There was a twist to the fish cake, which Alexandrea revealed was due to her re-frying them after they are delivered fresh every morning. This adds a new dimension to both the texture and the flavour, both in a good way.
I loved the creaminess of the soup. Usually when I’m done with the noodles and ingredients, I abandon the remaining soup. This day, I sat down and took spoonful after spoonful. It just might be that the laksa soup absorbed the essence of all the ingredients and grew more delicious as I ate.
Note, this laksa is spicy, even without the chilli on the side. It’s a sign of how tasty I found it that I kept slurping the soup down despite my tongue calling out for mercy.
It’s hard to be surprised by laksa after you’ve had so many bowls over the years. Alexandrea’s spin on the classic local dish didn’t completely blow me away but her special rendition of fried dumplings certainly made me sit up and pay attention to laksa after a long time.
Given how well everything was put together, I asked her how she came up with so many different aspects of the dish that worked so well. She explained that her family is deeply connected to cooking, with Heman Tan, the Iron Man Chef and MasterChef Singapore 2022 winner, Johnathan Chew both part of the extended clan.
Wow, now that’s pedigree. Alexandrea is content in her niche, though, and continues to take advice and inspiration from the people around her.
She also wanted to emphasise that she shares the stall with another hawker, who takes over after 1pm, and that their food is different.
Expected damage: $4.50 – $7.50 per pax
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