Travel Tips For Eating Laksa in Malaysia & Singapore

Laksa is a popular street food noodle soup dish in Malaysia and Singapore.

There are two types of soup base for Laksa.

A rich Coconut Milk Curry base or sour Asam (Tamarind)

We can find this pungent concoction in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Southern Thailand.

The type of noodles used are fresh soft rice noodles or blanched, dry rice vermicelli.

Origins of Laksa of the Region

Historian believes Laksa is a dish created when Chinese merchants settle in the coastal regions of Southeast Asia and intermarry with the local women.

The women created this hybrid Chinese-local culture called the Straits-born or Peranakan cuisine.

The ingredients are a mixture of local spices and creamy coconut milk into Chinese noodle soup creates this diversity by adding local flavor.

These women began incorporating local spices and coconut milk into Chinese noodle soup served to their husbands.

This creates the hybrid Chinese-local (Malay or Javanese) culture called Peranakan or Baba Nyonya.

Travel Tips For Eating Laksa in Malaysia & Singapore

Penang Assam Laksa

The Joy of Eating Malaysian Laksa

In Malaysia, there is almost a different Laksa for all the country’s 13 states.

Most of the gravy coconut-based except Penang Assam Laksa, which is a mouth-watering sour and spicy.

Penang Assam Laksa’s popularity is such that it was ranked as one of the world’s 50 best foods list by CNN.

This version of Malaysia’s Laksa is very addictive because of the spicy and sour taste of the flaked Ikan Kembong (small mackerel) broth infused with aromatic herbs.

Typical garnishes include mint, pineapple slices, thinly sliced onion, and torch ginger flower.

The thick, pungent dollops of Heh Koh (Shrimp Paste) complete the taste.

You can try the regional variants of the Laksa in Malaysia.

Types of Laksa in Malaysia.

The version of Laksa range from simple to complex with a myriad of ingredients.

Johor Laksa

Johor Laksa uses spaghetti instead of rice noodles and the gravy is coconut-based.

They make it with prawns, dried prawns, fresh, ikan, and kerisik (toasted coconut flakes) with the optional sprinkling of Chinese pickled radish (chye poh) as a garnish.

Unique to Johor Laksa is its Italian connection; it uses spaghetti instead of rice noodles.

If you travel to Johor, you may find the locals eating Johor Laksa with their hands.

Johor Laksa has a spicy hot spicy sambal belacan as a condiment.

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Laksa Johor


is a popular dish in the northern states and east coast of Malaysia.

The state of Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu with heavy influence from Thailand.

They make Laksam with thick flat white rice flour noodles in a rich, full-bodied white gravy of boiled fish and coconut milk.

Sometimes eels are used.

They serve it with a garnishing of shredded cucumber, cabbage, onions, long beans, bean sprouts, ginger bud, Daun Kesum, and sambal belacan.

Traditionally Laksam is eaten with hands rather than with eating utensils due to the gravy’s thick consistency.

Eating Laksa in Singapore – Katong Laksa

In Singapore, Katong Laksa is a creamy Laksa Lemak made by the Straits Chinese. They make the spicy soup stock with coconut milk and dried shrimp.

The toppings are cockles, prawns, and fishcakes and garnished with Vietnamese coriander, or laksa leaf, Malay Daun Kesum.

They cut the rice vermicelli up into small pieces. They usually eat the dish with a spoon instead of chopsticks.

328 Katong Laksa (Joo Chiat) is mentioned in the 2017 MICHELIN Guide Singapore.

Travel Tips For Eating Laksa in Malaysia & Singapore

Katong Laksa is eaten with a spoon.

Curry Laksa

in Singapore and Malaysia is a coconut-based curry soup that uses yellow noodles or bee hoon (vermicelli) with toppings of tofu puffs, shrimps, and cockles.

Penangites call this Curry Mee as yellow noodles, or bee hoon is used instead of fresh rice noodles.

Curry Mee in Penang uses congealed pig or duck blood cubes, a delicacy to the Malaysian Chinese community.

Laksa Sarawak

Laksa Sarawak is a complex dish with a shrimp-based and chicken stock broth seasoned with well over twenty different ingredients.

The broth has chicken and prawn stock with a rempah of sambal belacan, tamarind, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, and coconut milk.

Laksa Sarawak has a spicy noodle soup that is addictive.

Tips for Eating Laksa

When you visit Asia, you will find different soupy noodle dishes that the locals eat for breakfast, lunch, and an in-between snack meal.

We commonly find this category of cuisine in street food stalls, hawker centers, and food courts in Malls.

Eating More Greens and Protein

Unlike other noodle dishes, which are mainly carbs, Laksa is a complete meal.

It provides a more nutritious serve of greens and proteins from eating other noodle dishes.

The garnish is aromatics, herbs and raw bean sprouts, julienne cucumber, pineapple, and onion slivers.

Go Vegan

In some Chinese vegetarian shops, they sometimes serve a vegan version of this dish.

Keeping the Dishes Hot

Laksa is served by adding the soft rice noodles and ladling the hot boiling fish gravy on top.

They garnish it before serving.

There is a stall near Air Itam Market in Penang, where the customers eat it standing.

They hold the bowl in one hand and use chopsticks to eat.

Packing it Home

They pack together the Laksa noodles and greens.

The soup is packed separately in another plastic bag.

Some locals will use a tiffin carrier for the soup when buying the dish to eat at home.

Curry Laksa

is more palatable to the Western palate.

Some Asians who are not local may not find the Penang Assam Laksa to their liking.

The Heh Koh (Shrimp Paste)  is an acquired taste, so my advice is to take it separately on a spoon.

You can dip a little to taste it with your chopstick instead of tipping it into your bowl.

Check the hygiene of the stall before you decide to order.

Penang Asam Laksa

Penang Asam Laksa or Nyonya Laksa is a bold dish with a funky taste.

You may not want to consume this bowl of noodles immediately on arrival.

This dish does not contain nuts. It is rare to find fish bones in the Laksa broth.

You may opt to exclude the raw onion slivers if you don’t like the taste.

Anthony Bourdain ate a bowl of Penang Laksa in Air Itam that most Penangites and both local and foreign tourists have been raving about.

Laksa Heat Warning!

Some laksa gravy may be heavily spiced.

Some street food stalls may garnish the dish with sliced red chilies or green Bird’s eye chilies, which are very hot.

SmartDory Money-Saving Tips for Eating Laksa in Malaysia.

If you’re eating with a friend, just order a bowl and share it. You can order another bowl if you like the taste.