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Katong Laksa.jpg
Place of originMalaysia
Region or stateSingapore, Malaysia, Indonesia
Creator(s)Peranakan culture
Main ingredient(s)Laksa noodles or rice vermicelli, coconut milk, curry soup base
VariationsAsam laksa, Curry laksa, Nyonya laksa, Laksa lemak
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Katong Laksa.jpg
Place of originMalaysia
Region or stateSingapore, Malaysia, Indonesia
Creator(s)Peranakan culture
Main ingredient(s)Laksa noodles or rice vermicelli, coconut milk, curry soup base
VariationsAsam laksa, Curry laksa, Nyonya laksa, Laksa lemak
Alternative Chinese name

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup from the Peranakan culture, which is a merger of Chinese and Malay elements found in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.


The origin of the name "laksa" is unclear. One theory[1] traces it back to Hindi/Persian lakhshah, referring to a type of vermicelli, which in turn may be derived from the Sanskrit lakshas (लकशस्) meaning "one hundred thousand" (lakh). It has also been suggested[2] that "laksa" may derive from the Chinese word (Cantonese: [lɐ̀t.sáː]), meaning "spicy sand" due to the ground dried prawns which gives a sandy or gritty texture to the sauce. The last theory[3] is that the name comes from the similar sounding word "dirty" in Hokkien due to its appearance.[citation needed]


There are two basic types of laksa: curry laksa and asam laksa. Curry laksa is a coconut curry soup with noodles, while asam laksa is a sour fish soup with noodles. Thick rice noodles also known as laksa noodles are most commonly used, although thin rice vermicelli (bee hoon or mee hoon) are also common and some variants use other types.[citation needed]

Curry laksa[edit]

Katong laksa and banana leaf otak-otak
Curry laksa
A bowl of Penang laksa, a variant of Asam laksa.
Johor laksa
Laksa sold in Bukit Batok, Singapore

Curry laksa (in many places referred to simply as “laksa”) is a coconut-based curry soup. The main ingredients for most versions of curry laksa include bean curd puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Some vendors may sell chicken laksa. Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of sambal chilli paste and garnished with Vietnamese coriander, or laksa leaf, which is known in Malay as daun kesum.

This is usually known as curry mee in Penang rather than curry laksa, due to the different kind of noodles used (yellow mee or bee hoon, as opposed to the thick white laksa noodles). Curry mee in Penang uses congealed pork blood, a delicacy to the Malaysian Chinese community.

The term "curry laksa" is more commonly used in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Laksa is popular in Singapore and Malaysia, as are laksa yong tau foo, lobster laksa, and even plain laksa, with just noodles and gravy.

Variants of curry Laksa include:

Asam laksa[edit]

Asam laksa is a sour, fish-based soup. It is listed at number 7 on World's 50 most delicious foods complied by CNN Go in 2011.[5] Asam (or asam jawa) is the Malay word for tamarind, which is commonly used to give the stock its sour flavor. It is also common to use asam keping (also known as asam gelugor), dried slices of sour mangosteen, for added sourness. The modern Malay spelling is asam, though the spelling assam is still frequently used.

The main ingredients for asam laksa include shredded fish, normally kembung fish or mackerel, and finely sliced vegetables including cucumber, onions, red chillies, pineapple, lettuce, common mint, "daun kesum" (Vietnamese mint or laksa mint) and pink bunga kantan (torch ginger). Asam laksa is normally served with either thick rice noodles or thin rice noodles (vermicelli). And topped off with "petis udang" or "hae ko" (蝦羔), a thick sweet prawn/shrimp paste.

Variants of asam laksa include:

Other variants[edit]

Several variants mix coconut milk and fish and can be identified as either curry or asam laksa.

Betawi laksa with "emping" (melinjo cracker)

Summary table[edit]

The general differences between curry laksa,asam laksa and Sarawak laksa are as follows:

Curry LaksaAsam LaksaSarawak Laksa
Coconut milk is usedNo coconut milk usedCoconut milk is used
Curry-like soup (includes curry as one of its ingredients)Fish paste soup, tastes sour due to tamarind (asam)Red curry-like soup (does not use curry)
Except for bean sprouts, no other vegetable is usedPineapple, shredded cucumber, raw onions may be usedExcept for bean sprouts and fresh coriander as garnish, no other vegetable is used.
Bean Curd puff is usedNo Bean Curd puff usedNo Bean Curd puff used
Served with thick or thin rice vermicelli (usually thick). Occasionally served with yellow mee.Served with thick or thin rice vermicelli (usually thick)Served with thin rice vermicelli only
Hard-boiled egg may be addedNo hard-boiled egg addedSliced omelette is used
Slices of fish cake and either prawns or chicken is usedFish, normally kembung fish, is usedWhole prawns and serrated chickens are used
  • Laksa lemak
  • Katong laksa
  • Nyonya laksa
  • Johor laksa
  • Asam Laksa
  • Penang laksa



Laksa is simply referred to or ordered at a restaurant as laksa (curry laksa) or asam laksa. By default, laksa means the standard curry laksa while asam laksa refers to the standard Penang version. If a restaurant serves a non-standard version, the restaurant will qualify the laksa by the version being sold. For example, a restaurant serving Katong laksa will list Katong laksa on the menu.

Similar dishes[edit]

Laksa products[edit]

Laksa paste to cook laksa can be purchased from supermarkets. Laksa flavoured instant noodles are also available at supermarkets.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Winstedt, Sir Richard (Olaf), An Unabridged Malay–English Dictionary (5th ed., enlarged) (Kuala Lumpur: Marican & Sons, 1963)
  2. ^ Hutton, Wendy, Singapore Food (Marshall Cavendish, 2007) [Wendy-Hutton]
  3. ^ Spiles, Jason, Asian Food (John & Peters, 2005)
  4. ^ Terengganu government tourism – Laksam.
  5. ^ CNN Go World's 50 most delicious foods 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-11

External links[edit]