How to Cook Penang Asam Laksa

Asam (aka Assam) Laksa

Also known as Penang Laksa, this dish hails from its namesake island and has been listed among the ‘Top 10 world’s most delicious foods‘ by CNN.  I held off on attempting it for many years as one of the main ingredients in the paste, bunga kantan or torch ginger flower, is almost impossible to find in Australia.  However, when I finally did make it, I was very satisfied with it despite the missing ingredient.

Jackie M's Asam Laksa, photo by Dario Milano

Jackie M’s Asam Laksa, photo by Dario Milano

Serves: 5


For the spice paste –

½ cup grated onion
2 tsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp minced lemongrass
1 Tbsp finely grated galangal
5 Tbsp chilli paste (made from soaked, dried chillies blended with water; substitute with commercially-available Sambal Oelek)
1 Tbsp shrimp paste aka belacan granules (commercially available; or slice, toast and crush from a block of belacan)
1 tsp finely grated turmeric root
1 x ginger flower bud (bunga kantan) – (omit if unavailable)

For the stock –

2.5 L water
700 g mackerel
2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
250 ml tamarind concentrate (commercially available, or soak 3 Tbsp pulp in 250 ml hot water and strain)
3 pieces asam keping (dried tamarind slices), optional
2 sprigs laksa leaves aka Vietnamese mint, optional
1 ½ Tbsp chicken stock granules, or 1 stock cube
1 ½ Tbsp sugar

To serve –

1 kg fresh rice spaghetti (ones I get here are labelled “rice spaghetti” but on wiki they’re referred to as “fresh rice noodles” – – pic of Penang Laksa in article gives you an idea what they look like. Dried variety is a good substitute – they may be labelled “thick rice vermicelli” – but they require soaking in cold water for quite some time before cooking)

3 lebanese cucumbers, cut into thin strips
2 cups pineapple, cut into thin strips
2 red onions, sliced thinly
2 fresh red chillies, sliced
Handful of mint leaves
1/2 cup prawn paste (hae ko), simmered with 80ml water to a slightly thick sauce


1) Mix together all ingredients for spice paste, set aside.

2) Bring water to a boil. Add lemongrass and mackerel, simmer for 5-6 minutes until fish is just cooked through. Remove fish and set aside to cool.

3) Add remaining stock ingredients and all the spice paste to the fish broth, simmer for 30 minutes.

4) Flake the fish and discard bones. Soak rice spaghetti in hot water until soft, plunge into cold water.

5) Divide noodles between bowls, pour over hot broth and top with fish. Garnish with toppings and spoonful of prawn paste sauce.

Famous Asam Laksa stall at Air Itam in PenangFlashback: Famous Asam Laksa stall at Air Itam in Penang #MalaysianFood #AsianFood #Malaysia #jackiemtravel #jackiemlife #Penang #travel

Posted by Jackie M. on Wednesday, September 23, 2015

 Famous Asam Laksa stall at Air Itam in Penang

Asam Laksa presented in true street food style from Asam Laksa Air Itam, Penang.

Asam Laksa presented in true street food style from Asam Laksa Air Itam, Penang.

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