Under normal circumstances, I do not publish guest posts on Brooke vs. the World, but I guess all rules are meant to be broken. My boyfriend (the laksa expert) and I have been partaking in many Malaysian meals around Sydney together as part of Malaysia Kitchen, and so it seemed suiting to let him educate my readers on his favorite dish: laksa!
If you are like many local Aussies who love Asian cuisine or have walked around any food court in a major city of Australia – I would bet that you have seen someone eating a big bowl of laksa. But why the fascination with this popular Malaysian dish, and what makes a good laksa?
First off; for those unfortunate souls who haven’t ever tasted this spicy & rich noodle soup – I guess we should quickly run through what laksa is. The most common form of laksa is a curry soup, hailing from Malaysia, which can be characterised by the dominant elements of; sambal (a chilli/prawn paste), coconut milk, more chilli, herbs & spices (like lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, galangal, coriander, Vietnamese mint), noodles, tofu puffs, bean sprouts and usually chicken or seafood. The exact recipe will vary from restaurant to restaurant and town to town, but those are the common key elements of a laksa.
Personally, I think there aren’t too many dishes in the world that are more awesome than a well-made laksa, but like anything in life, there are also a fair share of bad ones which should be avoided at all costs!
So what makes a good laksa?
For me, I think there are a few ways to ensure a good laksa experience. For starters, you want to eat it somewhere that makes their laksa fresh. We are talking about a pretty complex soup with dozens of ingredients, so using fresh meat, herbs, sambal, spices, vegetables, good coconut milk and a good base stock is essential for a fragrant & tasty bowl.
Now I like chilli and I have never eaten a mild laksa in Malaysia – so I would say that the dish has to be spicy. It doesn’t need to be uncomfortably hot, but don’t be afraid if you see a deep red chilli oil or fresh (green or red) chillies on top. A general rule of thumb is that you should be sweating a little on the nose otherwise it is too mild!
The laksa should also have a nice smooth texture – from the blend of coconut milk and broth, which forms a nice rich soup. It should be thicker than a clear consume but thinner than a curry sauce and hold the flavours of the different ingredients in balance — so you can’t always put your finger on all of the flavours at once. Unlike some other soup based dishes which are more about being a vessel for meat, noodles or dumplings –- I enjoy laksa for the broth just as much (or even more) than the other ingredients.
Which noodles belong in a laksa is a contentious issue and if you really love laksa, then you have probably had several heated debates or scuffles amongst friends and family. At the end of the day, you could have rice vermicelli or rice vermicelli AND Hokkien noodles. I have a preference for places that serve both, but in my early laksa days, I hated seeing egg noodles in my bowl. Whatever makes you happy I guess…
Alright, so I could literally go on and on about laksa but I think the best way would really be for you to just to go out and try some yourself. If you are already on board, then go eat seconds and for you noobies, don’t forget to wear protection. E.g. a bib or at least a dark coloured shirt (you dirty bastards!)
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