Siamese laksa similar to asam laksa.

Penang is popular for asam laksa but there’s another dish which comes a close second in popularity. Siamese laksa is pretty much similar to asam laksa. The only obvious difference is that while Asam Laksa a has a light, sourish soup base while the former has a sweet and creamy but sourish base brought about by the addition of coconut cream. The Siamese Laksa is available in three varieties with a very hot soup – spicy and burning, a sweet and rich gravy with lots of coconut cream and another with chicken instead of fish. Also known as Penang Baba Laksa Lemak, one of the best of this noodle dish is sold at Chop Wah Chee coffeeshop near the Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam.

It is operated by the owner’s Thai wife, Pranom Junjai, whose secret to a tasty soup base is using the big-eyed fish or fresh sardines instead of mackerel. “And of course the best belacan and shrimp paste in Penang,” she said.

Highlighted in the Famous Street Food of Penang – a guide and cook book by The Star, Pranom also uses local wild ginger (lemak kunchi), fresh turmeric and kaffir lime leaves.

Her version is also different from what is actually served in Thailand.

The Siamese Laksa is also flavoured by the numerous herbs that are used as garnishing such as basil leaves and several types of aubergines such as the terong rapuh (a golf ball-sized aubergine and the terong pipit, a wild aubergine that is the size of a green pea.

The coffeeshop is on Jalan Balik Pulau and it is open between 10am and 5pm with extended hours during peak periods.

For those who want to make this delicious dish at home, do try this recipe below:

Siamese Laksa


Spice Paste:

* 15 (20g) dried chillies, soaked
* 4 (60g) fresh red chillies
* 5cm (40g) fresh turmeric
* 18-20 (180g) shallots
* 4 cloves garlic
* 6 candlenuts
* 5 stalks lemongrass
* 1 kaffir lime (remove top green layer of skin only)
* 100 cooking oil

Fish stock

* 1kg herring (parang) or mackerel (kembung)
* 2 litres water
* 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
* 2 pieces tamarind peel (asam keping)
* 300ml thick coconut milk
* 1 tablesppon sugar, or to taste
* 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
* 800g fresh laksa noodles, scalded


* 1 torch ginger flower (bunga kantan), split and sliced thinly
* 1/4 pineapple, cut into thin strips
* 1 cucumber, cut into thin strips
* 1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
* 1 bunch mint leaves
* 10 bird’s eye chillies, sliced


Blend all the spice paste ingredients. Fry until aromatic in the cooking oil over a medium to low heat. Set aside.

Gut and clean the fish. Bring water to boil; add the lemongrass and fish.

Boil for five minutes or until fish is just cooked. Remove fish, debone and flake. Set aside the fish flakes. Strain fish stock into a clean pot, add the tamarind peel and spice paste. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until gravy is aromatic. Add half the fish flakes and coconut milk and bring back to a boil. Season to taste.

To serve, bring the laksa gravy back to a boil. Place a serving of laksa noodles in a bowl and add the desired toppings. Ladle the hot laksa gravy and top with the reserved fish flakes.

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