Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from Peranakan culture, which is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements
found in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Left: A bowl of Katong Laksa,
The term "laksa" is used generally to describe two different
basic types of noodle soup dishes: curry laksa and asam laksa. Curry laksa is a
coconut curry soup with noodles, while asam laksa is a sour fish soup with
noodles. Usually, thick rice noodles also known as laksa noodles are preferred,
although thin rice vermicelli is also common and some
variants use other types.
Curry laksa (in many places referred to simply as “laksa”) is
a coconut-based curry soup. The main ingredients for most versions of curry
tofu puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Some vendors may sell
chicken laksa. Cockles are a common ingredient unless customers request not to
have cockles for hygiene reasons.
Left: Curry laksa.
Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of
sambal chilli paste and garnished with Vietnamese coriander, or laksa leaf,
which is known in Malay as daun kesum.
Asam laksa is a sour fish-based soup. Asam (or
asam jawa) is the Malay word for
tamarind, which is commonly used to give the stock its sour flavor. It is also
common to use "asam keping", dried slices of tamarind fruit, for added
Left: A bowl of Penang laksa, a variant
of asam laksa.
The main ingredients for asam laksa include shredded fish, normally kembung fish
or mackerel, and finely sliced vegetables including cucumber, onions, red
chillis, pineapple, lettuce, common mint, "daun kesum" (Vietnamese mint or laksa
mint) and pink bunga kantan (ginger buds). Asam laksa is normally served
with either thick rice noodles or thin rice noodles (vermicelli). And topped off
with a thick sweet prawn/shrimp paste.
Several variants mix together coconut milk and fish and can
be identified as either curry or asam laksa. For example:
Sarawak laksa comes from the town of Kuching in the
Malaysian state Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. It is actually very different
from the curry laksa as the soup contains no curry in its ingredient at all.
Left: A typical bowl of Sarawak Laksa,
with visible shrimps, chicken strips, omelette strips and fresh
It has a base of
Sambal belacan, sour tamarind, garlic,
galangal, lemon grass and coconut milk, topped with omelette strips, chicken
strips, prawns, fresh coriander and optionally lime. Ingredients such as bean
sprouts, (sliced) fried
tofu or other seafood are not traditional but are
The general differences between curry laksa,
asam laksa and
Sarawak laksa are as follows:
|Coconut milk is used
||No coconut milk used
||Coconut milk is used
|Curry-like soup (includes curry as one of its
||Fish paste soup, tastes sour due to tamarind (asam)
||Red curry-like soup (does not use curry)
|Except for bean sprouts, no other vegetable is used
||Pineapple, shredded cucumber, raw onions may be used
||Except for bean sprouts and coriander as decoration,
no other vegetable is used.
|Tofu puff is used
||No tofu puff used
||No tofu puff used
|Served with thick or thin rice vermicelli (usually
thick). Occasionally served with yellow mee.
||Served with thick or thin rice vermicelli (usually
||Served with thin rice vermicelli only
|Hard-boiled egg may be added
||No hard-boiled egg added
||Sliced fried eggs used
|Slices of fish cake and either prawns or chicken is
||Fish, normally kembung fish, is used
||Only slices of prawn and chicken used
Laksa lemak, Katong laksa, Nyonya laksa
Asam Laksa, Penang laksa, Johor laksa
At a restaurant,
by default, laksa means the standard curry laksa while
refers to the standard Penang version. If a restaurant serves a non-standard
version, the restaurant will qualify the laksa by the version being sold. For
example, a restaurant serving Katong laksa will list Katong laksa on the menu.