Experiences - Asia

Assam Laksa – A bowl full of deliciousness!

If street food fascinates you, the little island of Penang will be nothing short of heaven for you.  Assam Laksa is listed as number 7 in the world’s 50 most delicious dishes by CNN Travel in 2011 , and tourists come from all parts of the world just to try the Assam laksa, a spicy, minty, fragrant, sweet and sour fishy noodle soup.

Laksa is a spicy, noodle soup that originated from the amalgamation of different Asian cultures. You will spot a bit of Malaysia, a little bit of Singapore, and some traces of Indonesia and China in this dish. The Assam laksa is a culmination of Chinese and Malay cooking tradition, which is also largely responsible for the Peranakan culture. The signature Assam laksa is served with cylindrical rice noodles, accompanied by a variety of raw vegetables and toppings.

Assam Laksa

Image Courtesy: Alpha used under the Creative Commons Licence

If you’re wondering why it is called as Assam Laksa? Well there’s no connection to Assam actually, but the Malay word ‘Asam/ Assam’ is used to indicate anything that makes a dish sour. Laksa uses asam keping( kokum) a kind of mangosteen that is dried and sliced.

Tracing back to history, the Assam laksa was not created by one person. It evolved over generations and years together. Variations of the Assam laksa can be found across Malaysia and is believed to have its origin in the coastal communities of Malaysia.

The main ingredients for Assam laksa are (shredded fish mackerel), cucumber, onions, red chillies, pineapple, lettuce and mint. It is served with thick or thin rice noodles.

How to make Assam Laksa

Image Courtesy: Citrus and Candy used under the Creative Commons Licence

Here’s how you make a traditional Assam laksa:

 You will need:

Mackerel, Polygonum leaves( Laksa Leaves), Ginger buds, Asam keping, Tamarind juice, Laksa noodles, sugar, onions, lemongrass, fresh galangal, dried red chillies, fresh red chillies, dried shrimp paste.

For the garnish you will need:

Fresh pineapple, cucumber, onions, red chillies, mint leaves, and black prawn paste condiment (petis).

How to make Assam Laksa in 5 simple steps:

1. Simmer the cleaned whole fish in a pot of water until cooked. Let it cool before removing the bones. Shred them into small pieces.

2. Strain the stock and add to the pot with tamarind juice, ginger buds, fish, and sugar to taste.

3. Blend the spices until fine. Add to the stock along with the asam keping. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the soup thickens slightly. Add salt according to your taste.

4. Blanch the laksa noodles in boiling water, drain and set aside.

5. To serve: Put some noodles in a bowl and ladle the soup over it. Put a pinch of each garnishing ingredient over the top and serve.

Be prepared to dig into a bowl of deliciousness, while your taste buds fight for more. It is not just a tasty dish, but it is a bowl filled with culture and experiences handed down over the years.

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