Know Your Laksa - Your Guide To The Different Types of Laksa in Each State of Malaysia

 

If there is one thing you will never get bored with in Malaysia, it is with the food. And at the top of that list? Laksa. A rich, flavoursome noodle soup that is so beloved, nearly every Malaysian state has its own take. After all, there is nothing better than slurping on noodles dipped in a fish broth boiled for hours, topped with a mountain of ingredients and Southeast Asian spices. And a small dish of chilli and lime to give it that extra kick. 

 

So if you are looking to start on your laksa discovery journey, or just want to expand your repertoire of laksa dishes, then check this guide out. 

 

Curry Laksa 

 

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A bowl of Curry Laksa Noodles 🔥🍜 📸: @woon.heng -⁣ Recipe (serves 2)⁣ Ingredients:⁣ ~ Dried noodles of your choice (used udon) - cook based on package instructions⁣ ~ 3 tablespoons chili paste (check highlights too)⁣ ~ handful of curry leaves, 2 tablespoons of each: shallots, garlic, 2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger⁣ ~ 4-5 cups of veggie stock⁣ ~ 1/2 - 3/4 cup coconut milk⁣ ~ salt to taste⁣ ⁣ Chili paste ingredients (used in a lot of my other recipes):⁣ ~ blend together 1/2 lb fresh deseeded red chili, 1/4 cup chopped shallots, 5 cloves garlic, 1 small knob turmeric, 1 small chunk galangal, handful curry leaves, oil (enough to keep blender going)⁣ ~ tamarind juice, sugar, salt - to taste⁣ ✔️In a heated pan with 2 tablespoon oil, pour in blended chili & cook until chili turn dark red & aromatic. Season with salt, sugar & tamarind juice accordingly & continue to stir until the oil starts to separate from chili. Adjust sugar amount to your preference, start with 3 teaspoons & increase gradually. Once cooled, refrigerate or freeze extra for longer shelf life. ⁣ ⁣ 🍃Curry how to: ⁣In a big tall pan with 1 teaspoon oil, sauté shallots, garlic & ginger until fragrant. Add in chili paste & veggie stock, bring it to boil. Lower heat to simmer. Season accordingly & add curry leaves. Finally stir in coconut milk before serving. Season accordingly ☺️ ⁣ 🍃Toppings suggestions: grilled eggplants, blanched okra (be sure not to cook with soup for too long) & green beans, tofu puffs (my fav), homemade dumplings (potstickers style), squeeze of lime juice (soo good)⁣

A post shared by Daily Vegan Food & Recipes 🌱 (@vegolab) on Aug 11, 2019 at 6:16am PDT

 

Curry laksa (or curry mee, as it is known in Penang) is a spicy Peranakan dish that originated in the states of Melaka and Johor respectively. This particular laksa version is made of coconut milk and curry and comes with extra dollops of sambal chilli paste and laksa leaf (or Vietnamese coriander) to give it that extra kick. 

 

Curry laksa is very flavoursome because it comes packed with ingredients that include prawns, chicken, tofu puffs, cockles and fish balls. It is commonly served with yellow noodles (otherwise known as bee hoon) or vermicelli rice noodles. In Penang, curry mee consists of congealed pork blood!

 

While curry laksa originated out of the state of Melaka and Johor, there is a particular stall along Madras Lane in Kuala Lumpur that serves fantastic curry laksa. The stall was even ranked No.2 in the Ultimate Eatlist of 500 Best Eating Experiences issued by Lonely Planet! So if you’re looking for an introduction to curry laksa, you don’t have to look further than the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

 

Assam Laksa (or “Penang laksa”)

 

Assam Laksa

 

 

Image by Asian Food Channel

 

Assam Laksa is a sour, fish-based soup that originated from the island of Penang and was listed by CNN Go as the 7th of the World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods in 2011. This dish is so popular that you can easily find it in almost any other Malaysian state although it never hurts to try it in its place of birth!

 

The sour flavour originates from tamarind (the Malay equivalent is assam), which is used in its soup stock, although certain shops might opt to use dried sour mangosteen instead. There is no coconut milk in its broth, which instead is made of fish and torch ginger flower. Torch ginger flower is a uniquely Southeast Asian spice that gives it a special spicy taste. 

 

Adding to the broth is a wide assortment of ingredients including pineapple, cucumber, mint, red chillies spring onions and fragrant roots. The noodles tend to be either vermicelli rice noodles or thick rice noodles. 

 

If you’re looking for some of the best assam laksa in Penang, then we would suggest trying the family-run Laksa Bisu at Air Itam Market Food Court and Peng Hwa Laksa at Taman Emas Kopitiam, Gottlieb Road. 

 

Sarawak Laksa

 

 

Did you know that Anthony Bourdain once referred to Sarawak Laksa as the “breakfast of the Gods”?

 

As the name suggests, Sarawak Laksa originates from the state of Sarawak in East Malaysia. Most East Malaysians would argue that it is the best laksa dish there is (this author is no exception). It contains no curry. Instead, Sarawak laksa has a base made of sambal belacan - a popular spicy Malaysian chili condiment that is made of shrimp paste, garlic, chillies and lime juice. The soup contains coconut milk and sour tamarind, and is served with vermicelli rice noodles topped with omelette strips, chicken strips, fresh coriander, prawns, bean sprouts and lime. 

 

When ordering a bowl of Sarawak laksa, you can often order a ‘normal’ or ‘special’ bowl, with the latter being served with generous portions of prawns. 

 

If you want to try Sarawak Laksa at the shop that Anthony Bourdain dined at, then head towards Choon Hui Cafe. But make sure you go early - the cafe is very popular and the dish sells out fast!

 

Johor Laksa 

 

Johor Laksa

 

Image by Rasa

 

Johor Laksa originated from the southern state of Johor in Peninsular Malaysia and is similar to Penang’s assam laksa albeit with a little twist. 

 

For one, the noodles used are spaghetti instead of your standard vermicelli rice. This unusual choice is believed to have originated from Sultan Abu Baker, the founder of Modern Johor and the first Malay ruler to have visited Europe. Because of his European trip, the Sultan acquired a love for pasta and decided to introduce it into local dishes. 

 

Apart from the pasta, Johor Laksa consists of coconut milk, dried prawns, lemongrass, kerisik, galangal and spices. The garnishing comprises of cucumber, beansprouts, onion, long beans, Thai basil, mint leaves, pickled white radish and Vietnamese coriander. The cucumber is sliced in short, circular strips before being cut into julienne. Special condiments for Johor laksa include sambal belacan and calamansi limes. 

 

To sample the best Johor Laksa in Johor, we recommend Selera Johor at Plaza Larkin. And if you want to dine like a true Johorean, then you must eat Johor Laksa with your hands!

 

Kelantan Laksa

 

Kelantan Laksa

 

 

Image by Azie Kitchen

 

Kelantan Laksa originated from Kota Bharu, the state capital and royal seat of the state of Kelantan.  

 

The Kelantan Laksa paste is made with boiled and minced mackerel, which are then mixed with fried onions, ginger, garlic, pepper, belacan, Vietnamese coriander, lemongrass and tamarind slices. Coconut milk is added towards the end and stirred to give a thick, white and delicious consistency. And when served, you will find raw vegetables and chilli paste provided to give it an extra kick if that is your personal preference!

 

If you are ever in Kelantan, visit Restoran by T Laksam in Kota Bharu to try its Kelantan Laksa. 

 

Laksam

 

Laksam

 

Image by Asian Inspirations

 

Laksam is a laksa dish that can be found in the northeast Malaysian states of Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu. It is served with thick, bite-sized, white rice flour noodles. Laksam has a rich and creamy gravy consisting of boiled mackerel, coconut milk, tamarind, lemongrass, onions and dried assam. Sometimes, it is even served with eels instead of fish!

 

When served, laksam comes with toppings of raw vegetables, herbs and sambal chilli that come in separate bowls. Like Johor Laksa, laksam is traditionally eaten with hands and something that you should try if you’re up for it!

 

Nyonya Laksa (or “Laksa Lemak”)

 

Nyonya Laksa

 

Image by Serious Eats

 

Nyonya Laksa is a rich, coconut-based broth that originated from Melaka. Otherwise known as laksa lemak (which is Malay for “fatty laksa”), you can guess how much calories are packed into this particular laksa!

 

The creamy broth consists of coconut milk or assam cooked with prawn shells and chicken bones, which gives it a sweet yet strongly spiced tang. Its toppings consist of prawns, sliced fish cakes, julienned cucumber bean sprout and bean curd puffs. What makes this dish unique is that it is also served with either hard-boiled eggs or quail eggs alongside Vietnamese coriander.

 

One of the best nyonya laksa dishes in Malacca can be found at 486 Baba Low (which comes with fish balls) and Restoran Yung Lai Siang.

 

Laksa Kedah (or “Laksa Utara”)

 

Laksa Kedah

 

Image by Hungrygowhere

 

Laksa Kedah originated from the northern state of Kedah. Similar to Penang’s assam laksa, Laksa Kedah is a fish-based, assam-flavoured noodle dish. It comes packed with common laksa ingredients such as onions, cucumber, Vietnamese coriander, and tamarind. 

 

What makes Laksa Kedah stand out from the rest is its use of mackerel or sardines, normally fresh from the fishing villages of the state of Kedah. Couple that with garnishings of coconut sambal, chopped chillies, prawn paste, and cashew nut leaves, and you get a laksa that packs a hard sourish spicy punch. 

 

If you are ever in Kedah, look out for Din Laksa Teluk Kechai in Alor Setar to satisfy your local laksa cravings. 

 

Conclusion

 

Feeling hungry yet? Save for Sarawak Laksa, many of these laksa variants make use of similar ingredients and even look and taste pretty similar. However, there is always a little twist to each dish and we recommend trying it out yourself to decide whether laksa version you like the best! And to help you on that journey, why not catch a flight and visit some of Malaysia’s most beautiful states?

 

For the best flight deals, check out mayflower.com.my !

 

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Iuliya

 

A faith-driven Sarawakian lawyer who believes that it is never too late to start crafting a socially impactful legacy. When not grappling with warranties and liabilities, she loves pursuing adrenaline-fueled adventures, improving her Español and playing the violin. You can find her at @vidadeliya or https://www.vidadeliya.com