Lucky me, I was invited to participate in a Laksa Lo Hei a couple weeks back at Laksania! For international readers, you remember what lo hei is, right? It’s otherwise known as yu sheng, that prosperity tossing of raw fish salad which I wrote about not long ago, and it’s a very popular communal dining activity that’s part of Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore. What’s unique about this lo hei experience for me was that the yu sheng platter had laksa sauce, which is kinda unusual. But then again, for a food establishment named Laksania – which I like to think of as an abbreviation of “laksa mania” – it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the yu sheng platter came with such an interesting spicy twist.
I first heard of the restaurant Laksania through a magazine a few months ago and I made a mental bookmark to go check it out as it’s a new restaurant that serves a variety of laksa and laksa-spiced food. Everything’s laksa! That is an exciting concept and I’ve watched enough food television to sorta had a clue that laksa came in many varieties (depending on which geographic area it originates from). I just didn’t know what these different varieties actually were so I figured making a trip to Laksania would lift the veil for me and edumacate me further on my Asian food vocabulary.
It was my good fortune to have been invited to attend this lo hei lunch, because not only did I get to sample the different varieties of laksa, I also had the bonus of watching the Chinese New Year Lion Dance troupe in action!
Singapore is an amusing place for me to live in sometimes. You see, the majority of the population is Chinese, I’m also Chinese, so you’d think that many customs and traditions should in theory be familiar to me, right? Not quite the case. From time to time, I stumble upon certain cultural nuances that seem to be so unique to Singaporean Chinese and I find the oddity of such nuances humorous.
For example, as seen above – the lions used mandarin orange sections to form auspicious Chinese characters and the snake. How creative is that! And who was the first person who thought of this, I really want to know. Like, one day someone who worked in the lion dance troupe or association had a sudden flash of inspiration while eating a clementine and announced, “Eureka! I’m going to get the boys who are dancing underneath the lion costumes to peel mandarin oranges and use sections to form Chinese characters! YEAH!!! 我真聪明 ah！”.
No? You guys don’t ever wonder who’s the marketing genius that came up with this fun gimmick? What’s he going to think of next? A giant origami sculpture using red packet envelopes bursting out of the lions’ underbellies? Like, ooooohhhhh the lions have given birth to a huge fiery red origami phoenix! Or how about a large koi fish food art with sliced pineapple wedges used to depict fish scales?
The funniest I’ve seen around on my Instagram feed were these 4-digits that the lions left behind. The lions used the mandarin orange segments to form numbers! The four numbers were supposedly an auspicious gift from the heavens and so everyone should rush out to buy lottery, betting on those four digits (naturally, with the expectation to win some moolah). I find that so hilarious and again I want to know, is there like an almanac or some divine psychic or gifted Chinese numerologist sifu or someone who decided in advance which four numbers to bestow as the auspicious 4-digits? Seriously, I’m burning to find out!
Has anyone actually gone out to buy lottery, bet on those digits and won? Please tell me!!! So that next Chinese New Year, when I come across these lion dance 4-digits, I would go try my luck at the lottery booth as well. :P
Oh, one last observation. These 4-digits are generally displayed on the floor outside the business establishment or house, right? So which is the correct upright way to read it? If that number is 8096, for example. Depending on which direction you read it, it could be 8096 or 9608 so how? Just buy all the possible combinations of the four digits and win big money I guess? (Uhm, yeah I had a fairly quiet CNY this year so I had plenty of free time to be pondering about these stuff. Hahahaha, mow liew.)
Anyway, while we collectively chew on these happy thoughts of auspiciousness and wealth, here’s the Laksania yu sheng platter with laksa-infused sauce. I say infused because the sauce had other ingredients as well and it’s not a thick laksa paste (which would make the yu sheng platter way too spicy). The sauce was sweet, spicy, fragrant with a bit of tartness from lime juice. All in all, a nice well-balanced flavor that is a palate pleaser.
If memory serves correctly, I think there were baby abalone slices inside this Laksa yu sheng.
After trying out about a handful of yu sheng platters this year (which combined have been the most I’ve ever had in my entire life; this yu sheng custom is really a very Singaporean thingie)… I concluded that my fave topping is the crunchy fried wonton skin cubes/crackers. I guess akin to when eating salads, I like having an additional crunchy crouton-like texture.
Huat ah! Huat ah! Huat ah! (Which can be roughly translated to Rise ah! Prosper ah! MAKE ME RICH AH!!! – The “ah” doesn’t mean anything, Chinese people just love adding “ah” at the back of sentences for emphasis. Like an underline ah!) So the higher you toss, the more prosperity to be had. Hence the food fight-like mess on the table that resulted from all the huat-ness.
Y’all know what an OCD person I am and I admit I have difficulty going all the way huat-happy when it comes to tossing. I prefer to toss politely while everyone else got possessed to mess. When it was over, I stealthily used my chopsticks to nudge the stray yu sheng bits that were hanging off the sides of the plate back towards the center. *Ahem* I hope no one noticed. :X LOL!
Moving on to the main attraction at Laksania, which would be the laksa themselves. I mentioned in the beginning how Laksania serves different varieties of laksa and I was very curious to sample them. Below are the five main laksa that you can find at Laksania. I took these images from the Laksania website coz they come with descriptions, which I hope will help you all distinguish one from the other.
Out of the five – Singapore Laksa, Penang Laksa, Vegetarian Laksa, Sarawak Laksa, Kelantan Laksa – how many have you had before? Prior to this, I’ve only had Singapore Laksa and Penang Laksa, both of which I enjoy from time to time, especially when it’s raining and chilly outside. Sipping on piping hot, coconut-based creamy laksa broth and slurping on the thick vermicelli noodles is so comforting. And I love having cockles on my Singapore Laksa, loads of them!
I had never heard of Sarawak Laksa or Kelantan Laksa before. Both Sarawak and Kelantan are the names of cities in Malaysia, so the ingredients and spices are very authentic to their respective birthplaces. I REALLY enjoyed the Kelantan Laksa at Laksania A LOT!!! One of the elderly uncles whom I sat next to during lunch mentioned that you can’t find Kelantan Laksa anywhere else in Singapore, so I guess other than flying to Kelantan to eat laksa there, we now have a very convenient option to have it right here in Singapore and only at Laksania. It’s so delicious! And different than the ubiquitous Singapore version. The broth isn’t as spicy, in fact the coloring is quite light… a pale yellow. And there were fine bits of chopped fish in this dish, which had me second guessing whether it was chopped omelette at first coz the color and texture was so similar.
I was interviewed by Channel News Asia about my laksa experience that day.
It was an impromptu interview on video and I wasn’t really prepared. I can’t remember anymore what I was saying on camera but I’m purtttyyyyyy sure it had something to do with Kelantan Laksa. :P Yumz! I am so gushing over it. I guess I’ve been stricken by laksa mania. Heh!
I highly recommend everyone who’s reading this to head over to Laksania when you get a chance to try Kelantan Laksa for yourself. Please try it and let me know if you like it as much as I do.
I snagged these photos from the event photographer. Not sure why we all looked like we had jaundice… it was a cloudy afternoon with a slight drizzle, so I guess he must’ve overadjusted the white balance or something.
Oh, does anyone know who’s the guy next to me dressed in the pink suit? My first and only impression I have of him was how he had very very white teeth and I couldn’t stop staring at them. Frankly I don’t see a lot of people here in Asia with sparkling white teeth. I thought *I* have white teeth, until I saw his and yes, they were very much whiter than mine. He was a multi-talented emcee who hosted lunch, sang songs, performed a magic trick and gave me a red packet! Wheeeee~ :D :D :D
Hope your CNY celebration was filled with plenty of huat-ness! I had a pretty darn HUAT time at Laksania. :9
Laksania can be found at three places across the island of Singapore:
23 Serangoon Central
Tel:+65 6634 2645
201 Victoria Street
Tel:+65 6636 9776
382 East Coast Road
Tel:+65 6346 2026