The Lure of Laksa

My flight from Jogja was at 7 in the morning. This meant leaving the guesthouse at 5 a.m. and missing out on breakfast. It also meant either eating instant noodles on the aircraft or eating nothing at all. I decided to do the latter – who wants to eat instant noodles when travelling to Singapore?

My experiences of Singapore have taught me many things about the place, but the most important thing is that lunch hours there are insanely busy. Lunch begins as early as noon and goes on until late afternoon. An evening flight and an hour-long commute to and from the airport, left me with little time, but I knew exactly what I wanted.

My steps were set too: I reach my favourite Laksa joint at noon and approach one of the lovely middle-aged ladies at the counter, who cheerfully hands over a large, deep bowl and a pair of plastic tongs to me. She then points me to the counter to the left where I begin to pick my lunch from a choice of greens, semi-cooked bean curd, steamed fish cakes, boiled quail or chicken eggs, and pieces of fish. I put it all in the bowl and hand it back to the lady. Next, I indicate my choice of noodles from the display counter – flat, pan-fried, glass – and leave the rest to her, and in less than five minutes, my meal is ready.

In the time that I make the payment, the lady has already handed over similar bowls to five more people, offered to add exotic meats to my bowl, and handed over completed meals to two others;: efficiency, thy name is Singapore.

Once she has my bowl, the lady diligently separates the greens, meats, and noodles and dunks them in separate bowls of boiling water. In another few seconds, she returns all my stuff to the bowl and dishes out two large ladles of a rich flavourful broth. The broth, which is steaming hot and seasoned with chilli flakes, oil, and meat stock, is rich and fragrant. The fish cakes bob up to the surface. Once done, she adds a garnish of chopped spring onions and points me to a choice of chilli pastes and oils, while handing a large spoon and chopsticks.

As I look at my bowl of bright and colourful Laksa, I am glad I did not settle for the instant noodle breakfast.

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