Laksa Types

There are as many types of laksa as there are laksa cooks - because it's one of those dishes where self-expression is not only encouraged but is unavoidable.

But the three main types are curry (coconut milk curry soup), asam (sour, most often taramind-based) or a combination of both.

The most commonly used noodles are thick rice noodles known, not surprisingly, as laksa noodles; thin rice vermicelli (bee hoon or mee hoon) are also common. Some cooks create their own rice noodles.

Johor laksa uses spaghetti - no wonder it has been called "heretical" - and others opt for Japanse udon noodles.

Curry Laksa

This coconut-based curry soup is often garnished with coriander and is a favourite in Darwin, especially if made with chicken or seafood. Don't forget to add the spoonful of chilli paste to give the meal extra oomph.

Be aware that curry laksa in Malaysia is often made with congealed pork blood, a Chinese delicacy.

Be aware that curry laksa in Malaysia is often made with congealed pork blood, a Chinese delicacy. Singaporean curry laksa came 44th in CNN’s World’s Best Foods survey; of course, the result would have been very different if the laksa had been bought in a Darwin market.

The unpretentious curry laksa is being gentrified in some parts of Asia – stuffed tofu laksa and even lobster are being added.

Most laksas in Indonesia are curry, using spices such as turmeric, coriander, candlenut, lemongrass, garlic, shallot, and pepper cooked in coconut milk.

There are many sub-species of curry laksa, such as:

Laksa lemak: made with a rich, strongly spiced, slightly sweet, fish-based coconut gravy.

Laksam: a speciality of northern Malaysia, made with thick, flat white rice flour noodles in a rich, full-bodied white gravy of boiled fish and coconut milk. It is sometimes made with eels.

Katong laksa: a Singaporean laksa with the noodles cut into smaller pieces so that the entire dish can be eaten with a spoon alone, without chopsticks or a fork. The gravy is thickened with ground dried shrimp.

Bogor laksa: an Indonesian laksa made with a thick, yellowish coconut milk-based soup, flavoured with shallot, garlic, candlenut, turmeric, coriander, lemongrass and salt. It is often vegetarian and has a distinctive earthy and nutty flavour.

Cibinong laksa: another Indonesian laksa. It is served with bean sprout, rice vermicelli, hard-boiled eggs, cooked shredded chicken, fried shallots and lots of Indonesian lemon-basil leaves.

Betawi Laksa: also from Indonesia, a thick, yellowish coconut milk-based soup containing ground dried shrimp.

Tangerang laksa: a Chinese-Indonesian Peranakan laksa made with home-made rice noodles shaped like spaghetti, chicken stock, mung beans, potatoes and chives.

Palembang laksan: a Sumatran speciality. Sliced fish cake served in a coconut milk-shrimp broth-based soup, sprinkled with fried shallots.

Bowl of Laksa
Bowl of Laksa

Asam Laksa

A sour, fish and tamarind-based soup. The main ingredients include shredded fish, usually small mackerel, and finely sliced vegetables, including cucumber, onions, red chillies, pineapple, lettuce, mint and ginger.

Variants of asam laksa include:

Penang laksa: made with poached, flaked mackerel; tamarind gives it a sour taste.

Perlis laksa: similar to Penang laksa but garnished with catfish and eel.

Ipoh laksa: also similar to Penang laksa but with a more sour, rather than sweet, taste; contains prawn paste.

Kuala Kangsar laksa: made of wheat flour with a lighter-than-usual taste.

Medan laksa: an Indonesian dish made with mackerel, wild ginger flower, lemongrass and chili pepper.