The People Series – WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT GEORGE – 40 Over Years in Laksa and counting

I wasn’t planning to blog about George.

Then serendipity struck.

The hunt for Katong Laksa (George)

I’m not sure whether I’ve eaten at George’s. Being an Easter Coaster, I’ve eaten at Janggut’s Laksa and the other Laksa contenders along Marine Parade and East Coast Road.

And of course during my Junior College days, Queensway Shopping Centre is where my friends and I would loiter. And when we got hungry, we would converge at the Janggut branch there and stuffed our faces.

In recent times, I’ve chanced upon some mentions about Katong Laksa by George. I think the last person who mentioned it was my guru and hunger pangs detector Benny Se Teo.

So By George I was going to hunt him down.

The Parking

Two weeks ago, my daughters and I took a drive to look for George. His stall is said to be at 307 Changi Road.

If you are coming down from Changi Road from the Bedok area, you will pass OLPS church on your left, and after a short ride, you will see Seng Kee Herbal Chicken soup on your right (they are at 475 Changi road).

George is just a little further down and it is on the right side, same side as Seng Kee.

But on a Sunday around lunch time, I circled around 3 times and I couldn’t find a single park on Changi road whether on the left or right.

It was not to be. We didn’t manage to see George

Today I returned in the morning to try my luck.

I think the best place to park is that after Seng Kee, watch out for Jalan Sarina on the right side (where Chuen Chuen Chicken rice is).

Once you turn into Jalan Sarina, there are 8 white lots on that slip road. George is just after Jalan Sarina on the main Changi Road.

Finding George

I parked at Jalan Sarina and walked out to Changi Road. I saw Chuen Chuen on my left and walked towards the right.

George’s stall is in a Coffeeshop with a huge signboard that says “Eunos MRT Bak Koot Teh” which is right next to a shop selling electronics.

But you will see the banner “Katong Laksa (from 1955)” from the road.

I went late morning about 10am on a Monday and there was no one in the shop except George.

I ordered a $5 portion and asked for extra 1$ cockles.

For those of you unaccustomed to Katong Laksa, they look messy and it ain’t pretty.

A writer once described Janggut as the ugliest bowl of Laksa in Singapore and that it resembled puke in a bowl.

I was struck by how similar George’s Laksa looked compared to Janggut’s Laksa, right down to the trademark smear of the chilli on the side of the bowl.

Top Janggut/Bottom George

Janggut and George’s Laksa is like marrying a matronly prudish librarian-like woman and on the wedding night, you discover that she has a body that wouldn’t quit, and that she was an ex Victoria Secret model thank you very much.

Appearances can deceive and the proof is in the gravy so to speak.

I took a sip.

Very nice.

A waft of rich lemongrass and other herbs (probably turmeric, galangal, kaffir lime) enveloped me. The gravy was thick and lemak enough with the coconut milk, yet not so thick to be cloying. Nice consistency.

There could be pounded dried prawns or Ti Po(sole fish) in the gravy as there was a rich savoury umami overtone.

I drained the gravy in no time.

I wished the cockles were bigger although it is difficult to find big cockles in the laksas in Singapore nowadays.

I would have also liked the gravy to be spicier although I think that intensity was probably more suited for everyone’s palette.

I know one can always ask for more chilli but I think that putting in copious amounts of chilli to a non intense gravy changes the taste profile.

But overall, I enjoyed the laksa very much.

I slurped up the whole bowl in double quick time which is always the clearest indication to me how good I find the food I’m eating.

In my younger days, I would be quaffing seconds or thirds. But alas, with age, the mind is willing but the stomach is weak.

Musings with George

In the short time I was there, George’s mobile rang 3-4 times. Each time he started cooking and packing and in a few minutes, a car or taxi rolled up and George ran out and dropped the food off and collected the money.

What a great extra service for customers.

I started chatting with George and he turned out to be one of the most sincere and nicest guy I have met.

George told me he started off helping his father in their laksa stall in Chai Chee near to the Rollei (camera) factory. They were there for 7 years.

They then moved to Changi Road.

George gestured and we walked out from the shop. He pointed to the left and said they moved to the location opposite at the site where a condominium now sits right next to the Kim San Leng Coffeeshop.

2 years after they shifted to that location, his father passed on.

It was clear from the heartfelt way he spoke about his father that George was close to him.

He told me that his father and Janggut started out about the same time and they were good friends.

Janggut would come and hang out with his father regularly even in their twilight years.

George stayed in the location next to Kim San Leng for .. what for it … 33 years !

It was only 3 years ago that he crossed the road to this new location.

I asked George whether he had any branches and he said no. It’s a hard life and with a branch, he thinks the standards might drop and he didn’t want that.

We started talking about Laksa gravies and the rempahs (pastes) that are used to make it and at this point, he invited me to the back of the shop where he makes his pastes.

He showed me this huge mortar which he uses to make his paste twice a week. The paste is then stored in these huge urns.

He also showed me this huge coconut presser which he bought overseas. Quite a sight.

The coconut has to be made daily for the gravy to taste fresh.

George wakes up at 430 am in the morning every day and goes to the market to buy fresh coconuts, which is then juiced at his shop.

The result is this gravy with amazing colors.

George operates the stall alone. He has two sons. The younger is an engineer while the elder son is a Chef in a fine dining Japanese fusion restaurant.

One can only hope that one day when George wants to retire (he is in his sixties but he looks fit and sprightly), his elder son can be persuaded to carry on the legacy.

His elder son will come by daily in the morning to help George for about an hour or more before departing for his own work as a Chef.

George’s operating hours are stated to be 830am to 3pm daily with no closures.

But George tells me that he generally runs out between 1230pm to 2pm so it is best if you come before 2pm to avoid disappointments.

I bade goodbye to George after that pleasant conversation.

Such a nice man and one of the greatest Laksa you can find in Singapore.

Katong Laksa (George) 307 Changi Road Singapore 419785 Opening 730am- 3pm George’s mobile 90237360

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