Food Review: Me (Mee) and My Laksa.

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Our weekends are normally saturated with lots of sleep. So it is quite common for us to wake up at almost noon, practically in time for lunch. The problem with that is we would miss out on having a proper meal at lunch time and we would end up eating junk instead.

Thankfully, there are still hawker restaurants that serve lunch until 3:00pm, and one of these sold curry laksa which I have grown to love. My husband, on the other hand, can be quite fussy with what he wants to eat, so today, we shall leave him out of the equation.

This particular curry laksa (as shown in the picture above) did not have too much spicy sensation in its soup, nor did it taste too sour either. My guess was maybe customers may have complained about the amount of chilli she added in it, or that they weren’t used to the soup being too sour to consume.

Whatever the reason, it had just the right amount of flavour to it. Her bowl of curry laksa had a lot of contents as well, such as chicken thighs, tau fu pok (deep fried tofu puffs), fu chuk (deep fried tofu skin), taugeh (bean sprouts), fried fish balls, and occasionally, some squid and cockles, so I don’t have so much of a bone to pick with it.

However, if you spoke to a true consumer of all things laksa, he or she would probably abandon the bowl and walk away.

Why?

Because laksa, in general, is meant to be spicy and/or sour. Let me spin you a tale about the deliciousness of laksa.

Despite making its appearances in Indonesia and Singapore, laksa is Malaysian in origin, and Malaysia remains the best place to try it in its many forms. Why some people call it curry laksa or curry mee has always baffled me. Until I learnt that the term laksa is the Persian wordΒ laksha for noodles.

There are two main types of laksa, with a number of variations for both. The first type is commonly known as curry laksa or curry mee (the word mee being a Chinese name for noodles). This laksa is easily identified due to its use of coconut milk, and can be found in Singapore as well as the southern tip of Malaysia. The base of this dish is made from shallots, garlic, lemongrass, chilli paste, coriander seeds, and belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste), all grounded into a curry paste. This paste might vary from stall to stall, with a final touch of chilli oil added into the broth just before serving. Other common ingredients you can find nesting on a bed of noodles (your choice of vermicelli or yellow noodles) are bean sprouts, shredded chicken, seafood, halved pieces of deep fried tofu puffs, and half a hard boiled egg. Again, what you find in your bowl may differ from stall to stall.

Sometimes, you will see people adding sambal, a squeeze of lime juice, or a sprinkle of dried chillies for the extra oomph. It usually depends on what your preferences are, and well, you are what you eat!

penang asam laksa
Penang asam laksa. Credits: Malaysia.com.

The other type of laksa is called asam laksa or just Penang laksa, which is essentially where the dish calls home. Asam in Malaysia means sour, as the tamarind (the fleshy fruit of the tamarind tree) is a major component of the flavour in this sour and spicy dish.

The base of the broth in this dish comes from wholly fish stock, commonly made from mackerel and sardines, and often, you will find pieces of these fish in your bowl of noodles.Β Asam laksa is usually eaten with a small bowl of black shrimp paste which you will mix in according to your own taste. Other ingredients include julienned cucumbers, mint leaves, red onion,Β cili padi (bird’s eye chilli), strips of pineapple, the laksa leaf, and the perfumed, unopened flower of the torch ginger (otherwise known as bunga kantan).

One can find laksa stalls in many restaurants and shopping malls in Malaysia. Some vendors only sell one type of laksa, but it is also common to find vendors selling both types of laksa. All these vendors need are a huge pot of stock required for each type of laksa, and all the necessary condiments, and they’re good to go. They only close up for the day once they have exhausted their inventory. Then, they go home and come back again for business the next day.

What makes laksa so wonderful in Malaysia is that you have the opportunity of trying out the different variations of the noodles in different cities and towns that you visit. Try the Penang laksa as many have claimed that it being the home of the dish, it is therefore the best place to have it. Otherwise, you can go to Sarawak and have their version of laksa or remain in Kuala Lumpur to try all the different types of laksa under one roof.

Why don’t you put your tastebuds to the test and tell me which ones you like best? Will it be the sweet-sour and spicy mix of the asam laksa or the creamy coconut milky mix of the curry laksa?

Source: Asian Correspondent.

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