Makansutra: KL style laksa and nasi legend
Chai Chee stall making waves with famous Malaysian laksa
Mr Derrick Chong and his friends met the owners of Laksaamana in Kuala Lumpur by chance, and that was all it took for the Singaporeans to bring the famous Malaysian fare across the Causeway.
Laksaamana Singapore opened five months ago in Chai Chee and has a loyal following.
I've enjoyed its food in Kuala Lumpur and although the menu here includes familiar favourites such as laksa, prawn mee and soto ayam, it has a distinct Malaysian edge.
If you have only known one type of laksa, then a visit here would be a palate awakener.
The Royal Laksa ($4.50) looks mean and isn't really about the toppings (chicken, taupok and some slices of fishcake).
The first sensation that hits you is the hint of tangy tamarind in the laksa gravy. What is missing is the predictable sweet and coconut flavour that perfumes local-style laksa.
Swirl in the sambal, and you will learn the difference between Katong and Kuala Lumpur-style laksa.
I had to order the Nasi Legend ($6.50) simply because of its name. It looks like the nasi lemak we know - rice, sambal, fried chicken, half an egg, achar (pickles), a whole 10-inch ikan selar with nuts and cucumbers.
But oddly, there was a bowl of curry served with it.
I realised the rice was plain but it transformed when I poured the mild masala curry on it.
Blend in the blob of sambal to maximise the "kick" and devour the fish with the ayam goreng berempah (fried chicken with a rempah-laced batter). I will be back for this one.
It reminded me of Damian De Silva's full-sized ikan selar Nasi Lemak at his defunct Big D's in Ayer Rajah.
I was asked to try the Tahu Goreng ($4). Two things about this dish often turn me off.
One is the use of low-grade tofu, fermented at a higher temperature (because it's faster to make), which gives it an uncomfortable sourish aftertaste. The other is the overuse of tamarind in the peanut sauce.
But this version hits the spot. The nutty peanut sauce was pleasantly spicy and sweet and the tofu was well-fried yet still soft inside.
I also had a go at the Assam Laksa. Frankly, I think this one missed the target.
The kick of tamarind in the curry broth was just short of eye-blinking sour (which is a yardstick for me) and weak on the fish flakes, torch ginger flower bits, and the dollop of hae ko was too light for my liking.
According to Mr Chong, they bring all the sauces and spice pastes from the Laksaamana headquarters in Kuala Lumpur so "we don't have to worry much about the kitchen issues".
Blk 750, Chai Chee Road, #01-25, Viva
Opens 8.45am-9pm daily
K.F. Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, dabbles in street food businesses like Food Markets and has his own TV shows on cable. He publishes food guides and online content. He is also the creator of the World Street Food Congress. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.