Date of Visit: November 28 2013.
What’s the 7th best food in the world? According to a CNN Poll conducted in 2011, it was Penang Assam Laksa! Lusciously described as “Poached, flaked mackerel, tamarind, chili, mint, lemongrass, onion, pineapple … one of Malaysia’s most popular dishes is an addictive spicy-sour fish broth with noodles (especially great when fused with ginger), that’ll have your nose running before the spoon even hits your lips”
Wow! Assam Laksa even beat the world famous Thai spicy soup King –Tom Yum Goog – which came in at the 8th spot.
Admittedly, this is my first time eating a bowl of Assam Laksa, a basic street food in Malaysia of Peranakan origin – and the irony is that I am eating it in the up-market air-conditioned comfort of a 5-star hotel. Nonetheless, with a tissue in hand, ready to wipe my runny nose, let’s dig in!
My assam laksa arrived with fresh red chili peppers and a calamansi on top of the noodles. Other toppings on the soup included the obligatory cilantro, shallots, fresh ginger, cucumbers and a sliced hard-boiled egg.
Assam laksa is a chowder made from shredded mackerel in a lemongrass-infused broth thickened with tamarind and served with thick rice vermicelli noodles. The key ingredient of the soup is tamarind (or assam in Malay) which is used generously in the soup base. Garlic, onion, ginger, pineapple and fish paste or belacan are also used in the broth as garnishes.
The shredded mackerel was evident floating on top of the noodles as a mass of thick brown mass. I mixed everything up in the bowl and after tasting the broth, which has a complex taste of a mixture of sour-citrusy-fishy, I added a squeeze of the calamansi and extra fresh chillis, simply because I love my hot and spicy amped up with a bite! The noodles itself, were very chewy – like udon noodles.
It was overall a very stout bowl of assam laksa. The broth was as good as I have had, and well worth returning to – and I am definitely a return customer, my previous visit sampling other local fares here – another strong point about this broth is that it is NOT EVEN OILY! 😚
Ah yes, the tissue did come in handy!