Friday, March 26, 2010
A love letter to laksa
I realized that perhaps I had not adequately conveyed my passion for laksa. I feel as strongly about laksa as I do about ramen, That's how much I love it. And I've been eating a lot of it in Malaysia. I may only have three weeks here, but I am going to make the most of it.
Penang is Malaysia's food capital--I could have stayed there for weeks. There were so many amazing dishes to try (more on that later) that I felt like I gave the laksa less attention than I should have. But for my last breakfast in Georgetown I sought out the curry mee--also known as curry laksa--stand recommended to me by a local and had a giant bowl (above) at 9am. That's one of my favorite parts about traveling around Asia--finally, a place that has something going on for breakfast. I've always hated breakfast until I realized that miso soup, pho and laksa are all fair game round these parts. Hunching over a steaming bowl of soup that costs around $1, sweating from the heat and the chilis is how I'd like to start every day.
Laksa is one of the signature dishes of Penang and is significantly healthier than it's coconutty brethren. And that's exactly why I thought I wouldn't like it. But how wrong I was. Penang's asam laksa is a sour, fish-based laksa. I'm not a big fish person, but when I actually had a bowl of it in front of me I realized it was flaked mackerel, one of the only fishies that I like due to its incredible fishy properties. It's also chock full of vegetables, something you won't get a lot of if you live on hawker food in Malaysia. Cucumbers, shallots, mint, some other green I was unable to identify, ginger buds and even some pineapple made it a delicious and refreshing choice after days of calorically rich choices.
And finally, here's the one made in London before I went traveling. Perhaps not 100% authentic--it's a very westernized version--but it was more delicious than many that I tried on the street, probably because of the incredibly expensive ingredients (damn you, Waitrose) and the extra coconut cream. The fact that I only owned a tiny mortar and pestle made it an incredibly laborious process, but once that I repeated several times over the course of August and leading to a much plumper outlook on life.