Makansutra: The one-dish master of Katong Laksa
Mr George Ng of Katong Laksa has offered only laska for the past 46 years
This is a shout-out to and a standing ovation for hawkers who offer just one dish.
In our very fickle food nation, crowded with new players every day and noisy with all sorts of promotional gongs and drumbeats, it is hard to actually hear your own thoughts on what really matters to your palate.
Case in point: To get enough buy-in, the kaya toast chains have to now offer all sorts of warm and savoury meals like braised chicken rice, mee rebus and even otak sandwiches just to entice you to load up further with toast and wash it down with coffee or tea.
So I salute one-dish soldiers, as it is not as easy as just putting one item on your menu and praying the hungry hordes come running to your stall.
A few of these hawkers offer chicken rice, char kway teow, prawn mee soup, rojak, fried Hokkien mee and nasi lemak.
Many will combine a few items where they can use the same stock or ingredients - like kway chap and braised duck. But not Mr George Ng of Katong Laksa.
He is in his mid-60s and has hawked his brand of Nonya laksa for 46 years.
"My late father learnt it from the legendary Janggut Laksa in Katong when he operated a provision shop", said Mr Ng, adding he started in the 70s in a hawker stall in Chai Chee and moved about the East over the years.
He stuck with laksa "because it's the only dish I know" - and also because he does it exceptionally well.
You can tell the difference in his all-important homemade laksa rempah (spice paste).
It does not taste like what many cafes and hotels offer - a more-than-acceptable version that comes out of good-grade commercially-made packs.
Mr Ng's rendition is balanced, and no one spice stands out - not the blue ginger, lemongrass nor the dried shrimps.
It just tastes like laksa - complex and moreish - and it is the reason why this master can command a loyal following all these years with just one dish.
The thick bee hoon used is vintage and old-school, tasting more like rice than the smooth chewy versions made with some potato starch.
And the cockles, which is not an original Nonya laksa topping but made popular by demand over the decades, hail from Indonesia as Malaysia-sourced ones are too small, pricier and in low supply of late.
Keeping with tradition, he blanches the bee hoon in the simmering laksa curry and tops it with prawns, fish cakes, a healthy bunch of laksa leaves and bean sprouts.
If you happen to be there, take the time to chat with Mr Ng, who is talkative and will proudly tell you about his story and Nyonya food heritage.
307 Changi Road
8am to 3pm, closed alternate Tuesdays