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  • Writer's pictureRick

Quest for Laksa Dishes: How many types are there?

I did a quest for Hokkien mee previously to seek out the different types of Hokkien noodles that I could find in Singapore and Malaysia. This time, I did the same for Southeast Asia's popular laksa dishes. Such food quests make good travel objectives!

In this article, I listed down the various types of laksa dishes that I have tried so far from Singapore to Malaysia. This list is not completed yet as I believe there are more laksa dishes in Malaysia, and also in Indonesia and Thailand. I will keep to Singapore and Malaysia for this post until I have the chance to explore Indonesia and Thailand in depth.

1. Singapore Curry Laksa

The Nyonya-style coconut-curry laksa is one of the most commonly found noodle dish in Singapore. It's thick laksa broth, prepared with dried shrimps, coconut milk and spices, is usually spicy and a little sweet due to the coconut milk.

The noodle used is usually thick rice vermicelli but other noodle types can be specified. Typical ingredients used are tofu puffs (or "tau pok" as the locals called it), slices of fish cake, prawns, cockles, beansprouts and sometimes, portion of a hard-boiled egg. Dried coriander leaves are usually added as garnish and additional sambal chilli may be added on top of the curry soup to spice up the dish.

Singapore curry laksa
Jin Li Satay Bee Hoon, Beauty World Centre

2. Singapore Katong Laksa

Katong laksa, as it's name implies, originated from the Katong area in Singapore where thick rice vermicelli are cut into shorter strands such that the noodle dish can be eaten with just a spoon. This is the main difference between Katong laksa and other laksa dishes in Singapore — at least, when it first started.

There is also a common trait that Katong laksa are usually prepared with prawns, cockles and slices of fish cake garnished with dried coriander leaves and sambal chilli. Other ingredients may also be added. Only thick rice vermicelli is used.

Katong laksa
Terry Katong Laksa, Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre

3. Laksa Johor

When I first noted there are "Johor laksa" and "laksa Johor" in Johor Bahru, I asked around and was told that both are the same. But when I really went and searched for places that sell the two types of laksa dishes, I found the answer — they are entirely different. The two terms are often used interchangeably but "Johor laksa" is used mainly for other laksa dishes that are not the "royal laksa Johor" — as local Malays claimed.

Stalls selling "royal" laksa Johor are a little difficult to find unless one knows the way around Johor well. It was said that the process to prepare the ingredients and its thick gravy paste are so tedious that very few are willing to sell it. It took me quite some searching online until I found one in Johor Bahru — thanks to Johor Kaki!

Laksa Johor's gravy paste is not solely coconut-curry based but carries a sourness that resembles asam laksa — but it's from lemongrass. Many ingredients are ground to make the laksa paste, including fish, dried prawns and chilli. Another unique characteristic is the use of spaghetti instead of local noodles. Other ingredients are cucumber, onions, beansprouts and half a lime. This can be easily mistaken as a vegetarian dish.

Laksa Johor
Selera Johor (near Larkin Sentral)

4. Johor Laksa

In a nutshell, Johor laksa is Nyonya coconut-curry laksa and is very similar to Singapore's curry laksa, except that Johor laksa mostly do not have prawns. The curry soup is also not as thick as Singapore's curry laksa, so it tastes lighter and easier to drink to the last drop. Other ingredients such as tofu puffs, bean sticks, fish balls, cockles, beansprouts, etc, may also be added.

Johor Laksa
Lee Kee Johore Laksa, Dai Mah Garden (Taman Sri Tebrau)

5. Malacca Nyonya Laksa

Nyonya laksa in Malacca is broadly similar to the Nyonya laksa served in Singapore and Johor, except that more coconut milk is used. This gives the coconut-curry-based Melaka laksa more flavour and thicker broth — the better word to use may be "creamier". The laksa is also much spicier than most others that I had tried.

Nyonya Laksa
Jonker 88, Malacca Old Town

6. Malacca Nyonya-Kahwin-Asam Laksa

The word Kahwin is Malay for "marriage". So, this Nyonya-Kahwin-asam laksa dish is a marriage between Nyonya laksa and asam laksa. The broth is a mix of spicy, coconut-sweet and tamarind-sour. Unless a preference for the type of noodle is requested, the default will be to use lai fun (rice noodle) as in asam laksa. The ingredients may change due to availability but there will be poached mackerel, another main ingredient of asam laksa too.

Nyonya-Kahwin-Asam Laksa
Jonker 88, Malacca Old Town

7. Malacca Claypot Ee-Mee Laksa

Nyonya laksa in a claypot and using ee-mee (flat Cantonese egg noodle) as the noodle gives the Malacca laksa yet another twist. Apart from the Melaka-typical creamy broth, the laksa has additional "claypot flavour" and the variety of ingredients used are different from others too. It's a style of its own and always an unique experience.

Claypot Ee-Mee Laksa
Calanthe Art Cafe, Malacca Old Town

8. Penang Asam Laksa

Asam laksa, as the name implies, uses asam or tamarind that gives the signature Penang noodle dish its sourness. The noodle used is typically the thick and tangy lai fun (or rice noodle). The main ingredient is the mackerel fish, which is usually poached and flaked and added to the noodle dish with black shrimp paste, shallots, and other spices such as lemongrass, ginger, chilli, etc.

Unlike coconut-curry laksa, asam laksa is sour-spicy.

Asam laksa
Penang Air Itam Laksa (Ayer Itam Market, near Penang Hill)

9. Sarawak Laksa

I have not been to Sarawak yet but I was told there are few stalls in Singapore selling authentic Sarawak laksa, so I went to one of the highly recommended one to try.

Sarawak laksa's broth is made from coconut milk, sour tamarind and sambal belacan, which gives the dish its sour-spicy taste. Apart from prawns and beansprouts, the dish is also added with shredded omelette, shredded chicken and chopped spring onions. A piece of lime gives the laksa additional fragrance and sourness.

Sarawak Laksa
Lin Yu Mei Sarawak Laksa & Kolo Mee, Haig Road Market & Food Centre


I believe there are more types of laksa that I have not tried yet. I will continue to search for them and update this post once I bagged another laksa experience.

* Use the tags below to find related posts for place to try laksa.


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