AskDefine | Define Laksa

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English

Etymology

Indonesian or .

Noun

  1. A spicy soup from Indonesia or Malaysia.

Translations

Extensive Definition

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

Origin

The origin of the name "laksa" is unclear. The name may originate from the Sanskrit word laksha (लक्ष), meaning "many" (in modern Hindi, lakh, or 100,000) and referring to the soup's many ingredients. Another theory traces it back to Hindi/Persian lakhshah, referring to a type of vermicelli. It has also been widely believed that "laksa" may also be derived from the Chinese word "la sha" (; pronounced "latsa" in Cantonese), meaning "spicy sand". This is because the laksa gravy contains an ingredient that feels mildly sandy.

Types of laksa

The term laksa is used to describe two different types of noodle soup dishes: curry laksa and assam laksa. Curry laksa refers to noodles served in coconut curry soup, while assam laksa refers to noodles served in sour fish soup. Usually, thick rice noodles also known as laksa noodles are preferred, although thin rice vermicelli (bee hoon or mee hoon) is also common and some variants use other types.

Curry laksa

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 tofu puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Some vendors may sell chicken laksa which uses chicken instead of shrimp. Cockles are usually very commonly used in laksa and most vendors would add them into laksa unless customers request not to have cockles for hygiene reasons. Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of sambal chilli paste and is traditionally 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). The name "Curry laksa" is more commonly used in Singapore. With the popularity of laksa in Singapore and Malaysia, there are even more 'varieties' of ingredients like lobster laksa, laksa yong tau foo and even plain laksa, just noodles and gravy, like the type found on Sungei Road. Laksa is extremely popular in Australia, especially in the Chinatown districts of the capital cities. Special deals, such as "Laksa Thursday" encourage many local business workers to frequent the Asian cafes to dine on Laksa and other noodle based soups.
Variants of curry laksa include:
  • Laksa lemak, also known as nyonya laksa (Malay: Laksa nyonya), is a type of laksa with a rich coconut gravy. Lemak is a culinary description in the Malay language which specifically refers to the presence of coconut milk which adds a distinctive richness to a dish. As the name implies, it is made with a rich, slightly sweet and strongly spiced coconut gravy. Laksa lemak is usually made with a fish-based gravy and is heavily influenced by Thai laksa (Malay: Laksa Thai), perhaps to the point that one could say they are one and the same.
  • Katong laksa (Malay: Laksa Katong) is a variant of laksa lemak from the Katong area of Singapore. In Katong laksa, the noodles are normally cut up into smaller pieces so that the entire dish can be eaten with a spoon alone (that is, without chopsticks or a fork). Katong laksa is a strong contender for the heavily competed title of Singapore's national dish.
  • Sarawak laksa (Malay: Laksa Sarawak) comes from the town of Kuching in the Malaysian state Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. It is actually very different from the curry laksa as the soup contains no curry in its ingredient at all. It has a base of Sambal belacan, sour tamarind, garlic, galangal, lemon grass and coconut milk, topped with omelette strips, chicken strips, prawns, fresh coriander and optionally lime. Ingredients such as bean sprouts, (sliced) fried tofu or other seafood are not traditional but are sometimes added.

Assam laksa

Assam laksa is a sour fish-based soup. 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 tamarind fruit, for added sourness. Modern Malay spelling is asam, though the spelling assam is still frequently used.
The main ingredients for assam laksa include shredded fish, normally kembung fish or mackerel, and finely sliced vegetables including cucumber, onions, red chillis, pineapple, lettuce, common mint, "daun kesum" (Vietnamese mint or laksa mint) and pink bunga kantan (ginger buds). Assam laksa is normally served with either thick rice noodles or thin rice noodles (vermicelli). And topped off with "petis udang" or "hae ko", a thick sweet prawn/shrimp paste.
Variants of assam laksa include:
  • Penang laksa (Malay: Laksa Pulau Pinang), also known as assam laksa from the Malay for tamarind, comes from the Malaysian island of Penang. It is made with mackerel (ikan kembung) soup and its main distinguishing feature is the assam or tamarind which gives the soup a sour taste. The fish is poached and then flaked. Other ingredients that give Penang laksa its distinctive flavour include lemongrass, galangal (lengkuas) and chilli. Typical garnishes include mint, pineapple slices, thinly sliced onion, hε-ko, a thick sweet prawn paste and use of torch ginger flower. This, and not 'curry mee' is the usual 'laksa' one gets in Penang.
  • Johor laksa (Malay: Laksa Johor), from Johor state in southern Malaysia, resembles Penang laksa only in the kind of fish used but differs in everything else. Johor laksa has coconut milk, use 'kerisik', dried prawns, lemon grass, galangal and spices akin to curry. The garnishing comprises slices of onion, beansprouts (taugeh), mint leaves, Vietnamese coriander or 'daun kesum', cucumber and pickled white radish. Sambal belacan (a kind of chili paste) is placed on the side. Finally, just before eating, freshly squeezed lime juice is sprinkled on the dish. Unique to Johor laksa is its Italian connection - spaghetti is used instead of the normal rice noodles or vermicelli.
  • Ipoh laksa (Malay: Laksa Ipoh), from the Malaysian city of Ipoh, is similar to Penang laksa but has a more sour (rather than sweet) taste. The soup stock contains prawn paste.
  • Kuala Kangsar Laksa (Malay: Laksa Kuala Kangsar), made of rice flour (usually hand made). The soup is rather lighter than the common laksa taste and so much different from Ipoh Laksa in shape, taste and smell. The local municipal council even built a complex called "Kompleks Cendol dan Laksa" near the river bank of the Perak River. It is the main attraction for tourist in Kuala Kangsar.
  • Perlis laksa (Malay: Laksa Perlis) and Kedah laksa (Malay: Laksa Kedah) is very similar to Penang laksa and only differs in the garnishing used. Sliced boiled eggs are usually added to the dish. In some places the soup is made of eel flesh.
  • Kelantanese laksa (Malay: Laksa Kelantan), white noodles served with curry and vegetables, is made differently in every state in Malaysia. The Kelantanese laksa employs the creamy white gravy which is richer and has full-bodied flavour. The main ingredients is fish flesh, although connoisseurs would certainly prefer the ones made of eels. Also known as "Lakse" in Kelantanese Malay dialect.
  • Laksam, a speciality of the Malaysian state of Terengganu, is made with very thick flat white rice flour noodles in a white gravy of boiled fish and coconut milk. Traditionally laksam is eaten with hands rather than with eating utensils due to the gravy's thick consistency.

Summary table

The general differences between curry laksa,assam laksa and Sarawak laksa are as follows:
Laksa is simply referred to or ordered at a restaurant as laksa (curry laksa) or assam laksa. By default, laksa means the standard curry laksa while assam 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

Laksa products

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

Recipes

Laksa in German: Laksa
Laksa in Spanish: Laksa
Laksa in Korean: 락사
Laksa in Indonesian: Laksa
Laksa in Malay (macrolanguage): Laksa
Laksa in Japanese: ラクサ
Laksa in Simple English: Laksa
Laksa in Chinese: 叻沙
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