Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Melaka Nyonya Laksa
Laksa is another one of the reasons I went traveling. I had Malaysian laksa for the first time in London, and immediately fell in love. How could I not? It's so grossly decadent. Why settle for coconut milk when you can triple the calories and use coconut cream?
I started cooking it myself, and I'm not going to pretend that it wasn't delicious. But it was definitely a very western version. Not enough shrimp paste, not enough excitement. I knew I needed to try it in its natural environment. The way other people want to see the pyramids, I wanted to see the laksa.
Melaka is a city in Malaysia that has very distinct dishes, often referred to as nyonya cuisine. Nyonya and Baba are wham women and men that are the product of mixed Chinese and Malaysian backgrounds are called. I've also heard nyonya used to describe women of Chinese descent that are culturally Malaysian in language and dress. Melaka had the first permanent Chinese settlement in Malaysia and as such, has the strongest Baba-Nyonya culture. The food combines the best of Chinese and Malaysian food and has resulted in my favorite laksa so far, that the locals call laksa lemak.
It's very similar to curry laksa--or curry mee--but has the addition of lots of cucumber, which has the unfortunate distinction of being my favorite vegetable. (Does this make me a total sap?) Laksa lemak also has fish cake and even more calories, if that's possible, than regular curry laksa.
This bowl, filled with tofu puffs, hard boiled egg, cockles, shrimp, cucumber, bean sprouts, shallots and fresh herbs in a curry gravy was eaten mid-day in 100 degree weather and left me panting and with burning lips. Sweating and exhausted, I was happy.
Laksa lemak, I love you.