Time to Visit Malaysia’s States of Laksa
Laksa – a dish that is a pretty accurate presentation of Malaysia. All same same but different. At its core, it’s a much loved dish that can be eaten at all hours of the day and is basically a rich, hearty noodle soup made of fish (or chicken or spices) broth that has been boiled for hours and topped with a myriad of ingredients. I shall not even list down how laksa is on many international food list because Malaysians don’t need a list to tell us how good our food is.
Much like our beloved country, the ingredients and cooking methods of laksa varies from each region of our country, bringing forth a confusion definition of what is laksa. We clear the air on what is laksa across Malaysia’s many states.
States of Origin: Sarawak, Sabah
Photo Credit: Asian Inspirations
Admitting to biasness here because this writer is from Kuching and absolutely loves her Sarawak Laksa. As did the dearly departed Anthony Bourdain. The Sarawak laksa comes with a shrimp belacan-based broth and contains no curry. It’s served with vermicelli rice noodles and shredded omelette, prawns and chicken strips as toppings. The broth boiled with more than 20 ingredients, giving it that complex, yet aromatic flavor that just entices the tastebuds. It’s no wonder that Mr. Bourdain once called the Sarawak laksa “breakfast of the gods”!
Most cafes and kopitiams in Sarawak and even Sabah serves up a mean bowl of Sarawak Laksa daily so be sure to give it a try before you head out for your daily adventurous around east Malaysia. Sedunia Travel has tour packages to Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan which will allow you to get your laksa fix while experiencing the less explored side of Malaysia.
State of Origin: Penang
Photo Credit: Craftlog
The most well known laksa in Malaysia would be Asam Laksa. Originated from Penang, Asam Laksa is a fish-based noodle dish. This sweet, sour and spicy soup is made from shredded ikan kembung (mackerel fish), asam (tamarind), flavoured with shallots, turmeric, lemongrass and chillies. There is no coconut milk in its broth, which instead is made of fish and torch ginger flower. It is usually served with thick rice noodles and garnished with a salad of finely-sliced cucumber, lettuce, onion, mint, pineapple and red chillies. Occasionally, prawn/shrimp paste is served on the side (if in need of stronger flavour).
This dish has many flocking to Penang Island regularly to get a taste of the authentic deal. Of course, you can also check out what the rest of this island state has to offer with this 4D3N tour of Penang, perfect for a long weekend getaway combined with some hardcore foodie adventure.
State of Origin: Malacca
Photo Credit: Seasalt with Food
Also known as Laksa Lemak, Malacca’s signature laksa is rich in coconut gravy. Its fish-based broth embodies the creaminess of the coconut and brings out a sweet and strongly spiced flavour in its soup. As a result, you get a not-too-spicy broth that is often served with tau pok (bean curd puffs), taugeh (bean sprout), prawns and sliced fish cakes. Yes, it does look like Curry Laksa at first but then you would notice the hard-boiled eggs, cucumber slices and daun kesum (polygonum) garnish on the Nyonya Laksa, replacing Curry Laksa’s si ham (cockles).
States of Origin: Malacca, Johor but available in most states in Malaysia
Photo Credit: Papparich Malaysia
Since we’d already mentioned Curry Laksa, let’s talk about this spicy peranakan dish. Similar to the aforementioned Nyonya Laksa, the nationwide well-loved curry laksa is made of coconut milk, curry and accompanied by extra dollops of sambal chili paste and laksa leaf (coriander) for that extra kick. You will find prawns, chicken, tau pok, si ham and fish balls or cakes atop its yellow noodles or vermicelli rice noodles or even a mix of both. In Penang, curry mee is served with congealed pork blood!
So popular is this laksa amongst Malaysians that you can find it readily available in most coffee shops, kopitiams, mamaks and restaurants in almost every city in Malaysia.
State of Origin: Johor
Photo Credit: Asian Inspirations
The Johor Laksa is like the Assam Laksa save for a few unique differences due to its history and geographical differences. 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. Instead of a soupy-based broth, its consistency is also thicker, and usually served in a shallow plate. Also, don’t be surprised when you’re not served with cutleries, as you’re supposed to eat with your hands! Talk about a hands-on experience.
States of Origin: Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah
Photo Credit: Asian Inspirations
Another type of coconut milk- and fish-based laksa is the laksam, uniquely served with flat, rice noodles. For its more chewy texture, the rice noodles are made of rice flour, rolled, flattened then steamed, and finally, cut into small bite-sized pieces.
The toppings of various local herbs and shredded vegetables are served in separate bowls. Sometimes, it is even served with eels instead of fish! A dollop of sambal is a must! Like Johor Laksa, laksam is traditionally eaten with hands and something that you should try if you’re up for it.
State of Origin: Kedah
Photo Credit: Masam Manis
Laksa utara (northern laksa) or laksa Kedah is a dish of rice noodles in a fish-based asam-flavoured gravy, garnished with cucumber and onions, and fragranced with herbs like daun kesum (polygonum). The dominating sour asam (tamarind) notes and the sweetness of the fish differentiates this laksa from the rest. The secret ingredient to this dish is the freshest ikan kembung (mackerel) or ikan selayang (sardines) from the fishing villages along the coast of Kedah. Otak udang (prawn paste), coconut sambal and cili padi (bird’s eye chillies) are a must for more depth, flavour and spiciness.
Photo Credit: Couple J
Laksa’s versatility and its origins steeped in rich history makes it one fascinating story of how food unites diverse cultures and it continues to be an appealing dish across various ethnicities not just in Malaysia, but also in Southeast Asia today. Did we miss out on any variation of laksa? Tell us in the comment section below!
If you’re planning a foodie trip around Malaysia, Sedunia Travel has you covered with variety of different domestic travel arrangements for 3D2N, 4D3N and more depending on your plans. You tell them and they can make it happen.
Source: Pumpkin Cheeks