Penang Asam Laksa: The Cadillac of Noodle Soups? [BIMT27]

July 15, 2009 at 6:51 pm

The Asam Laksa is known throughout South East Asia as one of the best noodle soup dishes ever. Penang apparently is THE place to get the real deal.

Ah how I've waited to have you inside my stomach

Ah how I've waited to have you inside my stomach

Now, I had read stories online about Penang Asam Laksa and all its majesty. I desperately tried to find it back home, but the best I could come up with was coconut laksa – and I wasn’t too impressed with it either.

Before I continue, it should be said that I have a high bar set for noodle soups. As I’ve noted before, I myself am Vietnamese – with that I have known the world champion of noodle soups – Pho. I also know the light and middleweight champions: Bun Rue and Bun Bo Hue.

Pho - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Flickr Credit: avlxyz (http://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/)

Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue

Flickr Credit: SauceSupremer (http://www.flickr.com/photos/taste-buzz/)

Bun Rieu

Bun Rieu

Flickr Credit: khaavren (http://www.flickr.com/photos/khaavren/)

So when I heard that the Asam Laksa is perhaps a worthy challenger, I owed it to myself to see it it was true. In Penang, I finally had a chance to try their acclaimed noodle soup.

Down the hatch!

Down the hatch!

It definitely is a very tasty soup dish. Its stock is complex in flavour, not bland by any means, and the combination of ingredients makes for a hearty dish.

The tamarind based broth has a nice tart kick and the whole dish is steeped in a seafood aroma.

The broth is almost gravy like in texture

The broth is almost gravy like in texture

The broth isn’t a runny soup, but a slightly thicker sauce.

Thick, chewy noodles

Thick, chewy noodles

Thick and chewy rice noodles gave it a nice texture, and toppings of meats, fish, and vegetables provided a nice variety.

Shrimp paste - NOT for the weak stomached

Shrimp paste - NOT for the weak stomached

Topped off with basil and mint leaves, (as well as a pungent, horrid smelling shrimp paste..ugh…)the Penang Asam Laksa sure earned its title as Penang’s signature dish.

Here’s a video recounting my experience:

BUT…

It isn’t better than Pho. It’s a bit unfair comparing the two, since they both have very different base stocks, however if we’re talking about pure tastiness it loses out.

I found it actually very similar to Bun Rue, a tomato-based crab noodle soup dish from Vietnam. Both are seafood based and have a tart broth, and so this is probably a better comparison. I still like Bun Rue better =P

Some say I have to eat Penang Asam Laksa from Stall No.11 on Gurney Drive – maybe that’ll turn the tide for me!

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2 Responses

  1. Wong says:

    The way the locals eat Asam Laksa is to mix the so called dark thick shrimp paste into the soup. The shrimp paste is one of the key ingredients in Penang Asam Laksa.

  2. Ian P. says:

    Ahh – perhaps my nose got the best of me and I missed out on a crucial step for great tasting laksa.

    I guess it’s my loss =(

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