I said regrettably when my Mom, Dad, and I were on our flight back from Singapore. (This was in 2019 when leisure traveling was possible—not to mention, safer—compared to today.)
Before the three of us went on vacation, I listed down the meals we would try when we got there.
Hainanese Chicken Rice…
Pork and chicken satay…
And that elusive bowl of laksa…
Thankfully, however, we don’t need to fly to Singapore to try it.
Just in the busy streets of Makati lies 101 Hawker Food House, inspired by Singapore and customized for locals.
First, what does hawker mean?
Situated on the ground floor of the Beacon Tower, this restaurant has been here since 2010. It prides itself in serving “Makati’s most affordable hawker food.”
You might be asking: what does hawker mean?
If the term ‘food court’ is to the Philippines, the term ‘hawker center’ is to Singapore.
Most of the places where we tried the cuisine were at hawker food centers.
You could find them in parks, malls, or nearby transport terminals.
There is a variety of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and other Asian cuisines to choose from. Of course, 101 Hawker Food House does too! They serve dim sum, noodle soups, stir-fried noodles, congee, and an assortment of chicken, pork, beef, and seafood dishes.
Moreover, they make pastes and sauces daily to preserve freshness. At the same time, they adjust the spice and heat levels to suit the Filipino palate.
I have yet to try their other meals in the future.
For this review, I’ll focus on my first ever bowl of laksa.
And not just any kind of laksa but a vegan version of it!
On the origins of laksa
My editor, Ms. Mikee, said that their vegan laksa tasted heavenly, so we decided to write about it!
I wouldn’t have guessed that my initial taste of laksa would be vegan!
Before my verdict, let me share a little about laksa itself.
The exact origins of laksa remain unclear, but some say it generally came from the Southeast Asia region.
The word itself suggests cultural exchanges. In Sanskrit, ‘laksha’ means ‘many,’ whereas if we were to use the Persian word for noodle, ‘laksha’ means slippery.
Just as there are several articles on its origins, there are different types of laksa; many a chef has made their own variations of it depending on their taste and the market.
With the vegan laksa version of 101 Hawker Food House included!
(Let me add too that they have other vegan options like vegan nasi goreng, vegan noodle soup, vegan bagoong rice, vegan yang chow, and more.)
What I thought of vegan laksa
One Saturday morning, I booked a delivery and ordered their Vegan Set A. It consisted of vegan laksa and vegan nasi goreng.
They were still hot when I poured the contents into a clean bowl.
First things first—the smell.
Before digging into something, I start with my sense of smell.
The soup was aromatic—there was that hint of spice and curry. I could’ve let my nose have all the fun, but seeing how rich the whole bowl of vegan laksa was, I just wanted to dive in!
It was creamy and thick (but not cream-of-chowder-thick, if you know what I mean), probably because of the coconut milk. It had this perfect balance of saltiness and sweetness with a kick of the spice. Speaking of spice, it was mild; I wish I noted that I wouldn’t mind it being more spicy than usual!
The tofu blocks were firm on the outside and soft inside, and I would suggest that you let them absorb some of the soup first before taking a bite. Think of the blocks like another vessel for the soup; its mild sour and salty taste added some variety to my palate.
Meanwhile, the carrots, beansprouts, and garnishes were still crispy when I had them; they gave that fresh bang in every bite. The flat noodles were soft, and the amount could have still been divided into 2-3 more meals!
I would definitely order this vegan laksa again in the future! It’s truly comfort food, one you could have while watching your favorite shows on Netflix.
What about the vegan nasi goreng?
Included in the Vegan Set A was the nasi goreng with vegemeat and pickled carrots and cucumber, which I regrettably didn’t get to take a photo of).
Nasi goreng, on the other hand, is another Southeast Asian dish—popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and of course, S’pore—that consists of fried rice, one fried egg at the side, and chicken. Fun fact: in Indonesia and Malaysia, Nasi Goreng literally means fried rice!
I took a few spoonfuls of the rice and plant-based meat onto a plate. The actual serving is good for 2-3 people!
This second dish was flavorful and filling; I tried the rice first that had a few small pieces of red chilis, green peas, carrots, mushroom, and broccoli. It’s sweet and savory, but then when I tried the plant-based meat, it had a sweet coating as well, and I think it was marinated to absorb the flavors more. It paired well with the fried rice, especially when I poured a little of the pickled carrots and cucumbers for added acidity onto it.
The Vegan Set A is priced at P290.00 only! You could further divide the nasi goreng to 2-3 more meals.
The vegan laksa as a time machine
Although we didn’t get to taste laksa in Singapore before, I’m thrilled to know that there’s 101 Hawker Food House just around the corner to offer the best of Singapore and Southeast Asian cuisine to Filipinos!
I love how just this one bowl of vegan laksa made me think of the time I spent with my Mom and Dad in Singapore. It’s a time that I didn’t get to write about much, but it’s one of the memories I hold most dearly: just the three of us spending time together, close and intimate—a far cry from today when the distance and quarantines have made it hard for us to be together. (I haven’t seen my Dad for a year now, and I don’t think I would be able to see him in person this 2021 yet either.)
Thankfully, there are time machines like a simple and hot bowl of thick and creamy laksa that remind us that food is not just for fuel, nutrition, storytelling, or bonding but also for the quiet moments when we travel through memories and miss people we love.
You may find 101 Hawker Food House at the Ground Floor Unit 10, The Beacon Tower, Arnaiz Corner, Chino Roces Ave., Makati, Metro Manila, and contact them at (02) 8777 1071. You may also find them on Facebook, GrabFood, and Foodpanda.