Thursday, May 5, 2011

Katong Laksa

Katong Laksa
G/F, 8 Mercer St.
Sheung Wan
Hong Kong
Ph : +852 25434088

Another branch at :
Shop D1
G/F, Kam Sing Mansion
155 Jaffe Rd
Ph : +852 3168 2478

Sunday lunchtime in the depths of Sheung Wan. A quiet time, and in the corner of Sheung Wan in which I found myself on this day, a surprisingly few number of places open at lunch time. I was in the area to meet up with my father, and the search for lunch ended taking up 15 minutes of walking around with very little in sight apart from two rather dubious looking places, a shop selling live snakes for the grocery shopping crowd, and two Malaysian restaurants.

And so it was that I found myself at Katong. It was there, it was open, and the exterior was bedecked with copies of reviews assuring passers-by of its place amongst the top Malaysian eateries in Hong Kong.

Katong is a small place with an open kitchen (there was only one chef cooking on  the day of my visit) and it also does deliveries and takeaways. The menu consists of 29 main items, four "afternoon tea sets" that are popular amongst old style Hong Kong "Westernised" cafes (Cha Chaan Teng) in particular, plus various non-alcoholic drink options.

Horlicks (HKD13)

As I looked at the menu, it hit me that I probably hadn't ever ordered a hot Horlicks, or at any rate not since I was too young to remember having done so. Situation rectified, and it was oddly more satisfying and enjoyable than I had thought it would be. So much so that I almost ordered another one, before sense prevailed.

Mee Siam Supreme with prawn, egg and tofu (HKD55)

My choice was Mee Siam. How much sauce this classic vermicelli  dish has varies, as there are both 'dry' and 'wet' versions (I believe that the 'dry' version is more Malaysian, the 'wet' more Singaporean, but am happy to be corrected if this is wrong). The name 'Mee siam' is Malay for “Thai noodles”, a nod to the previous name of Thailand. A spicy, sweet and sour melding of flavours, this is one of the most popular hawker style dishes in Singapore. My preference is for a dry version, but I am happy to eat a gravy version, as this one was. The prawns were a mix of unpeeled and peeled, the tofu generous and the flavour on the slightly sour end of the spectrum. Personal taste would have been for a fraction less sour, a touch more of the spicy. 

Laksa with sliced chicken, shrimp, tofu (HKD46)

As was the case with the Mee Siam, the Laksa was so hot-off-the-stove that there was steam billowing from the bowl. Judging from the photos and mentions outside, Laksa is Katong's pride and speciality. Heinous, I know, but I have never really been bitten by the laksa bug, so I forgot to even try this before my father launched into it. It did smell good, the sliced chicken was almost shredded, and the colour of the soup was a nice deep colour, with relatively little oil on the surface. As you can tell from the photo, this was a curry laksa. I am told that it is one of the better laksas in Hong Kong in terms of taste and authenticity.

Interestingly, there is actually a Katong laksa, a variant of laksa lemak from the Katong area of Singapore. In Katong laksa, the noodles are normally cut up into smaller pieces so that the entire dish can be eaten with a spoon alone. 'Katong Laksa' has chosen not to serve this version. It might be worth considering, perhaps.

Katong is not large, and I can imagine that it can get hectic during peak hours, but it was less than half full on this day, and there was a nice informal feel to it. I liked the ambience of this place, and although I'd probably order something else the next time, I can definitely see myself returning there if I was in the mood for a quick fix of Malaysian or Singaporean noodle or rice dishes.


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