Laksa variations from Sarawak to Penang have well traced roots. It is less so with dry laksa in Singapore.
Amongst the variety of laksas available in Singapore, dry laksa is an oddity. It is the only one that is a noodle dish rather than soup, but carries laksa’s hallmark flavours and toppings. Instead of being simmered in a broth like assam laksa and nyonya laksa, dry laksa is stir-fried. The method of frying concentrates the pastes and spices, further locking in the flavours, resulting in a dish that’s packed full of flavour.
While the dish has been having a moment with local diners, its history is murky. In a research paper by Dr Jean Duruz, an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the University of South Australia, owner of the now-shuttered Rose Apple Deli, Linda Kan claimed to have invented this style.
Dry laksa is also served at prominent Peranakan restaurants here including Violet Oon and Straits Chinese Nyonya Restaurant, which suggests its origins lie there. Other places offering it in Singapore include Curry Times and Eurasian restaurant Quentin’s.
Local microbrewery Sevendaze has it on their taproom menu, and home businesses Jelebu and Let’s Jiak have made it their speciality. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try this dry version of laksa out, we’ve listed out some places that serve some of the best. Read on for more.
(Hero and featured image credit: Violet Oon Singapore)
This story was first published on Lifestyle Asia Singapore
Where to find the best dry laksa in Singapore
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It is quite fitting for Singapore’s most famous curry puff brand, Old Chang Kee to open a separate restaurant chain selling curry dishes, including dry laksa goreng. Thick rice noodles are fried in a bold laksa paste with coconut milk, then topped with prawns, chicken, bean sprouts, and fish cake. There’s also an option to switch out vermicelli for horfun.
Jelebu Dry Laksa is the home business of chef Renée Tang, who set it up after her stint at Le Bintochan ended due to covid. Instead of frying the noodles with laksa paste, Tang simmers them in a broth made from 12 herbs and spices, and thickens it with organic young coconut milk. Slightly wetter than the other renditions on this list, it comes with seasonal seafood from butter-poached lobster to grilled tiger prawns.
S$22 (not including delivery)
Another home business focusing on dry laksa is Let’s Jiak. Established during the pandemic by husband and wife Carlos Choon and Ryna Tan, their dish starts with lots of hae bee (dried shrimp), which they fry with a paste made from belacan, lemongrass, and fresh and dried chillis. Coconut milk brings a creamy depth, while a topping of prawns, egg, and taupok keeps it hearty. Available only on the weekends.
S$9.50 (not including delivery)
National Kitchen by Violet Oon
The eponymous restaurant of culinary icon and Singapore food ambassador Violet Oon, National Kitchen offers a refined take on dry laksa with glass noodle generously coated with fragrant laksa gravy, then garnished with juicy prawns, crunchy bean sprouts, and laksa leaves. It is splatter free – especially crucial in an upscale setting – and full of heady umami.
Quentin’s the Eurasian Restaurant
Quentin’s dry laksa begins with fresh rice noodle fried with laksa gravy, hae bee, coconut milk, sambal, and aromatics including ginger, galangal, and lemongrass. A generous heaping of prawns, taupok, bean sprouts, and fish cakes makes the dish large enough to be shared among two.
Besides being a microbrewery, Sevendaze serves a range of locally-inspired dishes at their taproom in Balestier. One of them is the dry laksa, which involves fragrant hae bee tossed with sweet potato noodles and rice noodles in a thick gravy. It comes with grilled tiger prawns, and squid, as well as the option of adding pan-fried seafood tofu and shoyu-pickled salmon roe.
(Image credit: @sameateateatsg / Instagram)
Straits Chinese Nyonya Restaurant
Straits Chinese is the upscale Nyonya restaurant chain by Guan Hoe Soon, Singapore’s oldest Peranakan eatery. Their pan-fried dry laksa involves rice noodles cooked with a house-made laksa paste, and topped with two large prawns and crispy taupok. Large enough for up to three diners, it is intensely aromatic and savoury.