Laksa Lemak Worthy of a MasterChef!

Hey Makan Kakis! Look who we have as this week’s guest? Fresh from his triumph at MasterChef Singapore Season 2, Winner Derek Cheong joins Denise online & on-air to chat about his journey to being Singapore’s new MasterChef.


  • Click to listen/ download podcast (Part 1) – Derek talking about his reaction to his win in the MasterChef kitchen, his thoughts on the judges, the biggest lessons he’s learnt along the way and what he’s doing with his $15,000 cash prize (only what a “mad scientist” would buy!).
  • Click to listen/ download podcast (Part 2) – How Derek put his 3rd year engineering studies on hold to join MasterChef, who his culinary hero is, which culinary books have inspired him, the first dish he ever cooked and his ideal dinner party guest/ meal.
  • Click to listen/ download podcast (Part 3) – Derek recommends his go-to place for his ultimate comfort food, Laksa and reveals his exciting new job.


Despite his reputation as a fine-dining chef and “mad scientist” with a penchant for molecular gastronomy, MasterChef Derek Cheong maintains that he’s still a “Hawker Boy” at heart. So when he’s in need of a bowl of coconutty comfort, this famous Laksa brand is his absolute go-to. 328 Katong Laksa is one of the handful of Katong rivals for good reason. It really is very, very good.

For Derek, it’s the rich, thick, lemak gravy that does it for him. He says that a good lemak laksa needs to have that distinct aroma. The gravy has to be cooked to the point that the coconut milk splits to form a layer of oil on top of rempah and you can smell it. The broth also needs fresh laksa leaf to gently flavour it with that distinct herbaceous taste. This is then enhanced with the addition of dried laksa leaf as garnish for that extra oomph.  Also, sweetness is often underrated in laksa, but Derek says 328 Katong Laksa perfectly balances their gravy for the most delectable experience. Along with the salty-savoury umami of the shrimp, richness of the coconut milk and spiciness from the chillies in the rempah, you need a delicate sweetness to carry all the flavours and bring the dish together. 

Indeed, the laksa was beautifully balanced as Derek described – very rich and very tasty. When Denise popped by the Queensway branch for a takeaway, the laksa remained hot and extremely flavourful for the eating at home. Don’t let its pale, creamy appearance fool you, the laksa gravy packs a spicy kick and their chilli paste is earthy and mellow, redolent with the intense flavour and fragrance of dried shrimp. $6 will get you a medium-sized portion with 4-5 prawns, lots of thin fishcake slices, a small spoonful of cockles, beansprouts, a dollop of chilli paste and a hearty heap of thick bee hoon.

A self-confessed carb-lover, Derek really enjoys extra noodles, which are conveniently cut up so all you need is pick them up with a spoon, no chopsticks necessary! However, even a MasterChef has his limits – Derek never has his laksa with cockles or beansprouts (he’s just not that fond of them). Denise is happy to exchange some of her noodles for his see hum & beansprouts, though!

Denise beaming with her laksa takeaway (gravy thoughtfully packed separated to prevent soggy noodles and overcooked cockles).

You might be tempted to give this famous franchise a miss because perhaps, you’re looking for a more unique, lesser-known laksa, but trust us, 328 Katong Laksa’s renown is well-deserved. Their laksa is genuinely delicious and Derek believes it’s safe to say all their outlets deliver consistently good noodles. He’s eaten at their Katong & Queensway branches and both maintained their laksa quality well.

Queensway Shopping Centre branch.

Denise tried the laksa from the Queensway branch:
Queensway Shopping Centre, 1 Queensway, #01-60, S(149071)
Open Daily: 10am – 8.45pm
(Other branches located at East Coast Road, United Square, Westgate & Tiong Bahru)
Online delivery also available.

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