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TL;DR: This is a discussion page with a recipe that I have never tried. My recipes for Penang laksa and curry laksa are based on commercially available pastes.

This page is still incomplete. I'm working on it, but there will be contradictions. The values below are the ones I have extracted from the original recipe. They will change when I have more experience. In particular, I can see now that I'm not going to add 62 chilies. There's also more information on Wikipedia, but it doesn't have a recipe for Penang Laksa; try here for that

Laksa is a term used for various noodle soups. I've identified at least three that I have eaten at various times:

  1. Penang laksa is the oldest. It is predominantly sour and is served with various herbs and raw onion.
  2. Sarawak laksa is a kind that I ate frequently in Kuching in 1969. At the time I didn't consider it a different kind, though I noted that it tasted different from Penang Laksa.
  3. Singapore laksa is probably the best known to other people, but I don't have a good recollection of what it is like.

I have a couple of recipes that I have been meaning to try, but nowadays various laksa pastes are available, and some of them are quite good. Problem: the names don't match what I knew in my youth. In particular, along with the recognizable Penang laksa, there are also curry laksa and Katong laksa. One of these may be what I knew as Singapore laksa, but I'm not sure.

Below, unedited, is a recipe for Penang laksa.

Ingredients

quantity       ingredient       step
8 pieces       asam gelugor (tran?)       1
20 cups       water       1
6 tbsps       sugar       1
30 stalks       daun kesum (Vietnamese Mint)       1
6 tbsps       tamarind-mixed with 3/4 cup water       1
1 kg       fish       2
2 tbsps       salt       2
2 kg       coarse rice vermicelli       2
2 stalks       bunga kantan (ginger flower)       2
1 clove       garlic       3
1 tbsp       shrimp paste       3
35       dried chillies       3
3 cm       piece turmeric       3
10 stalks       lemon grass       3
500 g       shallots       3
1 bunch       mint leaves       4
1       pineapple, sliced       4
3       cucumbers, thinly shredded       4
12       red chilles, sliced       4
15       green chillies, sliced       4
250 g       large onions, diced       4
120 g       preserved leeks, sliced       4

Notes on ingredients

According to this source, Bunga Kantan (Ginger Flower or Torch Ginger) tastes very much like Vietnamese mint, and can be replaced by it.

Preparation

  1. Soak the tamarind in water. Squeeze and strain out the juice. Grind the other ingredients to a paste and bring to the boil with the water. Boil for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the fish and let the gravy simmer for 15 minutes until the fish is cooked. Remove (fish) to cool. Set aside and flake. Remove bones if necessary.
  3. Let the gravy simmer for 1 hour.
  4. Remove the daun kesum and bunga kantan. Return the flaked fish to the gravy and bring to boil.
  5. To serve, place the rice vermicelli (if it's dried - boil first) in individual bowls, put the garnishing on top and pour the gravy over.

Original recipe

The following is the original mail message from which I derived the recipe above. Since it's not available on the web (indeed, it predates the web), I'm including it here.

I grew up in Malaysia and frequently travelled to various parts of the country with my father, who was an architect. One of his biggest projects was the FLDA (Federal Land Development Authority, which has since grown an E to become FELDA). In the course of the travels we often stopped for a late breakfast in a coffee shop. We would drink black local coffee (Kopi-o kosong) and eat Penang Laksa, a kind of noodle soup.

Laksa is a fairly well known dish, but that's what we call “Singapore laksa”, which tastes quite different. The following recipe is the oldest file originally created on my system:

=== grog@wantadilla (/dev/ttypl) ~/public_html/recipes 35 -> ls -l laksa
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis  2643 Jun 14  1991 laksa
There are older ones, but they've been created elsewhere and restored from tape. I'm leaving the original as a sign of those times.
041     SENT:  91-06-12  18:51   ORIGINAL       001 ATTACHMENT
        FROM:  SMTPGATE @COMM (grog@devnull.mpd.tandem.com)
          TO:  LEHEY_GREG@TANDEM.COM

Path: devnull!cs.utexas.edu!wuarchive!usc!orion.oac.uci.edu!nntpsrv
From: karsiti@emerald.eng.uci.edu (MN Karsiti)
Newsgroups: soc.culture.asean
Subject: Penang Laksa
Message-ID: <2853A8E5.17577@orion.oac.uci.edu>
Date: 10 Jun 91 16:29:25 GMT
Organization: University of California, Irvine
Lines: 55
Nntp-Posting-Host: emerald.eng.uci.edu

     Since there was some interest in Penang Laksa recently, I am posting
the official (at least according to TDC, Malaysia) recipe.

Ingredients:
 1 kg fish
 2 tbsps salt
 2 kg coarse rice vermicelli
 2 stalks bunga kantan (translation?)
 **1 clove garlic
 **1 tbsp shrimp paste
 **35 dried chillies ( this is going to be hot !!!! )
 **3 cm piece turmeric
 **10 stalks lemon grass
 **500 gm shallots
   ** ground to a paste ("gilling hingga lumat")
 8 pieces asam gelugor (tran?)
 20 cups water
 6 tbsps sugar
 30 stalks daun kesum (tran?)
 6 tbsps tamarind-mixed with 3/4 cup water.

for garnishing:
1 bunch mint leaves
1 pineapple- sliced
3 cucumbers- thinly shredded
12 red chilles- sliced
15 green chillies- sliced
250 gms large onions- diced
120 gms preserved leeks- sliced

method:
* Soak the tamarind in water.  Squeeze and strain out the juice.  Bring to the
boil with ground paste and dried tamarind, daun kesum, bunga kantan, sugar
and salt.  Boil for 10 minutes.
* Add the fish and let the gravy to simmer for 15 minutes until the fish is
cooked.  Remove (fish) to cool.  Set aside and flake (remove bones--make sure
you get everything so you won't get sued by your guest).
* Let the gravy simmer for 1 hour.
* Remove the daun kesum and bunga kantan.  Return the flaked fish to the gravy
and bring to boil.
* To serve, place the rice vermicelli (if it's dried - boil first) in
individual bowls, put the garnishing on top and pour the gravy over.

Happy cooking,
Mohd Noh.

p.s.  taken (without permission) from "Malaysian Common Recipes" by TDC, Malaysi
(added remarks in bracket were mine).
Other interesting menus include: Rendang, Fried Rice, Nasi Lemak, Sambal Ikan
Bilis, Beriani, Kurma, Murtabak, Roti Canai, Dhall, Fish Head Curry, Fried Mee,
Nasi Minyak, Satay, Chicken Rice, and Peanut Sauce.

----------------------------- ATTACHMENT ----------------------------
158     SENT:  91-06-12  18:51
        FROM:  SMTPGATE @COMM (grog@devnull.mpd.tandem.com)
Default Folder:  M                               Default Message ID:  041
  ENTER COMMAND>>
Strangely, I've never made this recipe. Some of the details can be clarified, though:

After writing all this, I discovered that Wikipedia has what looks like a much better description of all kinds of laksa. It confirms my observation that asam jawa is used instead of asam gelugor in Penang laksa; it doesn't mention asam gelugor at all.


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