Malcolm and I had just spent our entire Sunday afternoon during the Labour Day weekend drinking beer while soaking ourselves in sun. We started off with Sapporo in Trinity Bellwoods Park, then moved on to an oyster and sausage binge featuring Belgian Wit at Bellwoods Brewery.
Just up the street from the bustling brewery sits Hawker Bar. Owned by the brothers who brought us Poutini’s, their new venture stems from their love for Singaporean style hawker grub which they first encountered on a visit to Australia. Toronto seriously lacks authentic offerings inspired by Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. All of which I have traveled through extensively.
My fondest memories of Singapore include a visit to their National Museum which had an entire room dedicated to exploring the history of Singapore’s Hawker culture with specific attention to the much loved dish, Laksa. I actually spent an entire day at Singapore’s most famous hawker stall where tables upon tables of diners gorged on malay-chinese-indo fusion cuisine. I enjoyed my first ever bowl of Laksa that day, my life changed forever.
Hawker Bar offers an intimate little space with menus scribbled on cardboard (a homage to the many street vendors in Singapore that showcase their offerings in this very humble manner). Since we had already been eating and drinking the day away we opted to just order two dishes that I had already heard good things about. The quintessential laksa and a towering cucumber salad.
The laksa was passable but nothing compared to the rich and flavourful dishes I sampled along the coast from Singapore to Penang. The dish missed out on the sweetness of tofu and the chicken could have been more present in the bowl. Once finished our noodle slurping (which made a mess on my shirt so be sure to bring a bib) our bowl was still half full of curry broth. A more substantial, dare I say girthy portion of glass noodles would beef up this dish so it weren’t such a sad wallowing finish. The cucumber salad was a perfect quenching accompaniment with a hint of mirin and crunch of fried sticky rice.
Hawker Bar isn’t the sort of spot I will be running back to. If you have never been to Singapore and have an inner desire to experiment I do suggest checking it out so you can develop a better repertoire for the regions flavours and textures. For some reason I feel like I will only truly find a laksa that makes my eyes fill with tears if I return to “Singy” on some exceptional humid afternoon to celebrate the perfection of the bowl in my own selfish solitude. Or, if Susur Lee invites me over to his place for lunch: but I won’t hold my breath for that one.
coconut curry, rice noodles, tofu puffs, snow peas, red pepper, eggplant
mirin dressing, fried sticky rice