For a country that spans just less than 720 square kilometres, but boasts a $650 million F&B industry which sprouts two new eateries every day, cut-throat competition is the natural order in Singapore’s ever-expanding culinary landscape. With thousands of restaurants and limited space, there are bound to be casualties; only the best stand the test of time, and taste. Roxy Laksa EST 1952 is one of them.
Founded in 1952 by Lim Kiok Seng, Roxy Laksa version 1.0 consisted merely of a cart parked outside the now-defunct Roxy Theatre, from which the laksa operation took its name. Renowned for its toothsome but balanced recipe – carrying all the hallmarks of a Nyonya laksa, but with a “thinner” gravy than a typical lemak laksa so that its ingredients are not overpowered – the robust flavour profile of the simple dish attracted food enthusiasts and industry trailblazers alike, including lawyer-turned chef and creative driving force of Wild Rocket, Willin Low.
Mike Lim (left) and Willin Low (right)
When we spoke to Low for our August 2016 issue on his favourite local eateries, Roxy Laksa was the first name mentioned, and the enthusiasm in his description of the time-honoured dish makes it no surprise that he wanted to be involved in preserving Roxy’s legacy:
“A third generation laksa hawker – in a 50 year old country, this in itself is a feat. The laksa here is my favourite in Singapore; although it doesn’t contain any cockles, the umami of the dried shrimps more than makes up for it. Roxy’s is not a strongly flavoured laksa; instead, it is a delicate and very well-balanced one with the sweet aroma of freshly squeezed coconut milk.”
Third generation runner Mike Lim, grandson of Roxy’s founder and sole torchbearer for continuing the legacy of his grandfather’s recipe – which turns 65 this year – faced the challenge of finding a successor as well as finding an invigorated location from its previous home at East Coast Lagoon Food Village. Relocating to urban food centre Timbre+, Lim and Low teamed up to preserve the heritage of the timeless hawker dish and bring it to a new audience.
Despite its hip new home at Timbre+, a youth-minded food court constructed out of shipping containers that features cutting-edge grub and daily live music performances, you won’t find truffle, salted egg, rainbow colouring or any other trend-driven ingredient meddling with Roxy’s original recipe. While we hadn't tried Lim’s grandfather’s original recipe for the sake of comparison, what we can affirm is that the revamped stall doesn’t seem to have impacted the renowned recipe’s composition. Straddling the line between salty and sweet, the briny soup broth achieves a thickness that coats the glassy rice noodles aptly, flavouring every bite without bloating them or softening their texture. Complemented by thin slices of fish cake and meaty prawns, Roxy’s laksa formula has quickly become one of our favourites for its satisfying medley of tastes and textures, while not overpowering, nor overfilling.
Priced at $4 per bowl and $4.50 with a side of otah, it’s a more-than-reasonable asking price for a taste of history, while ensuring its heritage lives on in the hearts, minds and tummies of its most ardent followers.
3A Ayer Rajah Crescent, #01-17 Timbre+. Open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm. For more info, visit facebook.com/RoxyLaksa1952.
Text Trent Davis
Images Roxy Laksa EST 1952