12 Different Types of Malaysian Laksa to Eat in Malaysia
Malaysian Laksa is one of the most famous dishes in Malaysia to try when you visit.
The uniqueness of a Malaysian Laksa – the pungent, sour, spicy, slightly sweet taste – is what makes this fish broth gravy so mouthwatering and addictive.
Laksa is a noodle dish that is irresistible after the first bite – you can not be bored with it.
Every Malaysian Laksa is highly cherished by the locals and loved by tourists.
Laksa ranges from creamy and spicy to hot, sour, and fresh in its many transformative regional variants.
I grew up in George Town, Penang.
My grandmother used to sell Laksa, and they would make the rice noodles by hand, twirling the hot thick, soft Laksa noodle strands onto a small banana leaf square.
Laksa and I go back a long time with our family recipe, which my grandmother makes, a Red Laksa.
When I started traveling, I began to discover the many variations and types of laksa in Malaysia.
What is the Malaysian Laksa?
Malaysian Laksa is a popular fusion of Southeast Asian curries and Chinese rice noodles.
The Laksa broth’s taste ranges from a mild curry to a full-blown pungent, sour, spicy, slightly sweet taste and fishy broth.
Before we dive into the list of Malaysian Laksa – there are two main types of laksa in the region.
Malaysian Laksa – Curry (Non Halal)
In the southern state, this laksa in Malaysia is known as Curry Laksa or Curry Mee in Penang.
Curry Laksa dish is sold by the Chinese community and does not contain FISH.
The soup is a creamy, intense curry made from coconut milk.
Nowadays, some restaurants make this with milk instead of coconut milk – this is called White Curry Mee.
The deciding element is the lashings of fried curry paste on top.
You stir this in to make a bowl of fiery red curry sauce.
Curry Laksa has a wide variety of ingredients, depending on which Malaysian state you’re in, and ranges from stall to stall.
- Spongy Tofu Puffs
- Cuttle Fish
- Blood Cockles
- Congealed Blood Cubes (Pig or Duck)
- Bean Sprouts
- Fish Balls
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Hard-Boiled Quail Eggs
- Pork Skin
- Roasted Pork
- BBQ Pork
- Long Beans
Noodles for Malaysian Curry Laksa
- Rice Vermicelli
- Yellow Alkaline Noodles
Malaysian Laksa – Assam (Halal/ Pork Free)
The Assam Laksa, as the name suggests, is a type of laksa with a sour taste.
This type of Laksa doesn’t contain coconut milk.
The lighter pungent broth is made from fish (usually trevally, snapper, or mullet), tamarind, and torch ginger flower.
Torch ginger flower is a fragrant edible bloom with a spicy aromatic flavor.
The balance of aromatics is essential, which helps cut through the fishy smell of the broth.
Herbs and onions are blended to form a rempah (spice paste), which adds punchy flavor.
- Shredded Cucumber
- Sliced Onions
- Sliced Chili
- Shredded Pineapple
- Mint Leaves
- Chopped Torch Ginger Buds
- Prawn Paste
- Sliced Long Beans
- Raw Beansprouts
- Shredded Cucumber
- Sliced Big Onion
- Sliced Red Chillies
- Shredded Laksa Leaves (Daun Kesum)
- Mint Leaves
- Shredded Thai Basil (Daun Selasih)
- Lime Wedges
Noodles for Malaysian Assam Laksa
- Soft Laksa Noodles
- Laksam Noodles
Types of laksa include the creamy santan based Curry Laksa and Assam Laksa, and its variants are made by the Chinese, Malay, Peranakan, and Thai communities in Malaysia.
1. Penang Assam Laksa (Fish, Assam)
The Penang Assam Laksa is made with a spicy fish broth and is decidedly sour and hot.
Flaked fresh Ikan Kembung (Mackerel Fish) is used as the broth base thickened with onions and yam beans.
The broth is flavored with shallots, turmeric, lemongrass, galangal, and chili to create a rich and fragrant flavor.
CNN’s World’s Best 50 Foods: Reader’s Choice list chose Penang Assam Laksa is one of its tastiest entries.
The delicious soup has dried tamarind fruit that gives it its well-known sourish taste. Penang Assam Laksa is served with thick, soft rice noodles.
The Laksa’s garnishes are a salad of finely sliced cucumbers, raw onions, mint, pineapples, red chili, and ginger flowers.
To top it up, a spoonful of sweet and robust prawn paste brings the intense flavors together.
You will not regret trying one of the most popular Malaysian Laksa dishes to try when you have your holidays in Penang.
2. Curry Laksa (Curry Powder, Santan)
In Penang, Curry Laksa is known as Curry Mee.
Blanched yellow noodles and rice vermicelli are enveloped in a delicious coconut-based curry broth.
Spongy fried tofu puffs, chicken, shrimp, boiled eggs, fresh blood cockles, congealed pig or duck’s blood, and bean sprouts are added on top of the dish.
You can ask for more fried fiery red curry paste to add a zing to your noodle dish. Some street stalls add fresh mint leaves to brighten the dish.
This dish can found almost in every state of Malaysia and makes for a delightful dish to enjoy on a cold rainy day.
3. Ipoh Laksa (Curry Powder, Santan)
Ipoh Curry Mee is a sweeter version with a thinner coconut milk broth.
The toppings for a bowl of Ipoh Curry Mee are thick cuts of Roasted Pork, BBQ Pork slices (Char Siew), Shredded Chicken, Shrimps, and Ipoh Beansprouts.
4. Nyonya Melaka Laksa (Chicken, Prawns, Santan)
Nyonya Melaka Laksa represents one of the Peranakan (Straits Born Chinese) recipes and traditions with Malay and Chinese cultural influences.
Nyonya Laksa’s fish-based broth is very creamy, slightly sweet, and strongly spiced, which gives you a not-too-spicy laksa broth. Many people may mistake this for Curry Laksa at first glance.
The laksa has a creamy coconut milk gravy base cooked with chicken bones and prawn shells.
The gravy uses fresh turmeric, dried chilies, turmeric, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, Belacan, candlenuts, dried shrimps, and shrimp paste.
The curry soup is neither too thick nor too diluted, teeming with cockles, spongy fried tofu balls, fish cake, julienned cucumber.
Notable differences would be the hard-boiled eggs or quails eggs, julienned cucumber, and finely sliced Daun Kesum (Polygonum) garnish on the Nyonya Laksa, replacing Curry Laksa’s si ham (blood cockles).
The sambal is also no common condiment; just a dollop can enhance this soupy bowl of goodness’s savory flavors.
5. Sarawak Laksa (Complex 20 Ingredients)
Sarawak’s most famous noodle dish is Sarawak Laksa, which looks like the normal curry laksa.
However, the Sarawak Laksa gravy is complex and packed with up to 20 ingredients that require grinding and blending strong-fragranced items like
- dried chilies
The paste is then cooked with roasted peanuts, sesame seeds, curry powder, and a little coconut milk for thickness.
Amongst all the Malaysian Laksa, Sarawak Laksa is a complex dish with a hearty, spicy yet addictive broth.
This Malaysian Laksa used Bee Hoon (rice vermicelli), shredded omelet, cooked prawns, and chicken strips in an aromatic broth, with sambal and a squeeze of lime served on the side.
6. Laksa Johor (Fish, Spice Mix, Kerisik, Spaghetti)
Malaysian Laksa Johor is not a dish you can buy at stalls.
This is Johor’s favorite dish and is served in almost every open house during Hari Raya.
The unique Malaysian Laksa is Laksa Johor, which uses spaghetti instead of noodles or vermicelli, making it almost a fusion of Italian pasta.
The laksa gravy is made from dried prawns and fish, Ikan kurau (Threadfin), Ikan parang (Wolf Herring), and prawns.
The fragrant spice mixture includes fenugreek, mustard seed, fennel, cumin, Belacan, and toasty Kerisik.
This dish is served with garnishings such as cucumber, bean sprouts, long beans, Daun Kesum (Polygonum), and Daun Selasih (Thai Basil).
Malaysian Laksa Johor is served with a spicy sambal chili on the side and calamansi limes for the extra kick!
You will be amazed to find most Johoreans typically eat their Laksa Johor with their fingers, rather than use any cutlery.
7. Laksam (Fish, Santan)
Laksam is typically found in Kedah, Terengganu, and Kelantan.
The dish is served with thicker bite-sized noodles instead of long- and limp rice noodles.
The noodles are rolled up like a Chinese Dim Sum Steamed Rice Rolls and cut to bite-size pieces.
The mild, tasty, and creamy Kuah Putih (white gravy) is made with mackerel, coconut milk, tamarind, lemongrass, small onions, and dried slices asam.
Laksam is served topped with a salad of local herbs and shredded vegetables.
A popular breakfast option Laksam has a dollop of sambal is a must for a spicy kick.
8. Laksa Kedah (Fish, Assam)
Laksa Kedah or Laksa Utara (Northern Laksa) is a rice noodle dish in a fish-based Asam-flavored gravy.
The dominating sour asam (tamarind) notes and the fish’s sweetness differentiates this laksa from its creamy cousins.
The gravy uses Ikan Kembung (Mackerel) or Ikan Selayang (Sardines) from the fishing villages along Kedah’s coast.
The garnish is cucumber and onions and fragranced with herbs like Daun Kesum (Polygonum).
Otak udang (prawn paste), coconut sambal, and chili padi (bird’s eye chilies) are a must for more depth, flavor, and spiciness.
Traditionally, Laksa Kedah is served with finely-sliced ulam such as Daun Selom, Ulam Raja, and Pucuk Gajus (young cashew nut leaves).
9. Laksa Kuala Perlis (Fish, Assam)
Laksa Kuala Perlis is a spicy and sour rice noodle dish served in a fish-based gravy.
The main ingredients include Belut (Eel), Ikan Kembung (Mackerel), and Ikan Selayang (Sardines).
Dried chilies, Belacan, shallots, Asam Gelugor, torch ginger bud, and Daun kesum (polygonum) are used to perfect the gravy.
In Kuala Perlis, the locals like to dunk Pulut Panggang into their Malaysian Laksa gravy.
Pulut Panggang is grilled glutinous rice stuffed with a crumbly floss of dried shrimp, coconut, turmeric, and chili.
10. Laksa Kuah Putih (Fish, Santan, Assam)
Another popular East Coast dish, Laksa Kuah Putih is found in Pahang and Terengganu.
Laksa Kuah Putih gets its name from Santan’s white creamy thick sauce (coconut milk).
Its heavy dependence on Santan is apparent when every 1 kg of blended fish is complemented with Santan’s 2 kilograms.
Laksa Kuah Putih takes about seven ingredients to make this – rice noodles, fish (preferably Mackerel and Sardines), Assam Keping, onions, salt, and Palm Sugar.
A side of sambal is served for those thrill-seekers looking to add more heat to the dish.
11. Kelantan Laksa (Fish, Santan, Palm Sugar)
The Kelantan Laksa is somewhat similar to the Penang Assam Laksa in that its base is made from mackerel and coconut milk.
However, this dish is slightly sweeter as it contains palm sugar.
Kelantan Laksa’s sauce’s main ingredient is ‘Ikan kembong’ or round scad mackerel boiled and minced.
The minced fish are fried with onions, garlic, ginger, datil pepper, belacan, Ginger buds, Vietnamese coriander, or ‘Daun kesum,’ lemongrass, and dried tamarind slice.
Coconut milk will then be added as the final ingredient and stirred until mixed up and thick.
Kelantan Laksa is served to add ‘ulam’ (raw vegetables) and blended chili on the side.
Another variable of Kelantan Laksa is ‘Laksam.’ The sauce’s recipe is the same, but the noodles are slightly bigger and flat.
12. Tomyam Laksa Lemak (Coconut Juice)
Tomyam Laksa Lemak is a special dish with a distinct taste of a Thai dish. The gravy combines tom yam paste and young coconut juice.
Thin vermicelli noodles are used Instead of thick white noodles.
The ingredients make this extra dish special.
- fresh turmeric
- candlenuts (buah Keras)
- tom yam paste
- meat curry powder
- kaffir lime leaves
- fish sauce
- fresh lime juice
- mung bean sprouts
- shredded cucumber
- mint leaves
- red chilies
- ginger buds
- flower crabs
Did we miss out on any Malaysian Laksa? Please share the different types of laksa we may have missed out on in the comments below!