Asam Laksa – Authentic Penang Malaysia Assam Laksa Recipe

Asam Laksa - Authentic Penang Malaysia Assam Laksa Recipe

Penang Assam Laksa is one of the most popular and common hawker fare in the state. It is a spicy noodle shop of Nyonya origin that fuses Malay and Chinese culinary elements. By Penang definition, laksa is a dish of round rice noodles in a spicy fish-based broth. It is very different from laksa in other states of Malaysia. Indeed laksa may appear very different from state to state in Malaysia as well as Singapore.

Penang Assam Laksa is a spicy soup made of assam ko (tamarind) with fish flakes made from poached ikan kembung (mackerel). Ingredients added to it include chang mau (serai, lemongrass), lengkuas (galangal) and of course, chilli. Garnishes include po ho (daun pudina, mint); slices of pineapple, cucumber and onions; bunga kantan (torch ginger flower), and hae ko (shrimp paste).

For tourists coming to Penang Island, asam laksa is a definite must-try dish. It is best eaten in the late afternoons

Type of fish used in Assam Laksa

In this recipe, Spanish mackerels are used as the base of the broth. In Malaysia, Indian mackerel (ikan kembung) is the more popular option. Besides mackerels, sardines or skip jack tuna (ikan tongkol) may be used too.

How to prevent fishy broth?

Using fresh fish is the key to prevent the broth from becoming fishy. As a guide, ensure that the eyes of the fish are clear and the gills are bright red when choosing fish. Just a reminder, though. Be sure to remove the bones thoroughly after boiling the fish.

Substitutes for ingredients

The asam laksa broth is uniquely sour because of two ingredients – ‘asam gelugor’ and tamarind paste. However, out of Southeast Asia, asam gelugor may not be available. Therefore, add more tamarind paste to create the sourish taste in asam laksa.

The other special ingredient which is tough to find is ginger torch flower. Usually, they are sold at the markets. Just skip this ingredient if you are unable to find it.

Type of noodles used in assam laksa

Asam laksa uses very thick rice noodles which are not easily found out of Malaysia or Singapore. Therefore, make them using the recipe here. Otherwise, udon noodles are a great substitute. Although made using wheat flour, they are thick and tender just like those used in asam laksa.

With so many tantalizing flavours coming together, this dish is a definite delight to savour. The smoothness of the noodles, small pieces of fish, shrimp paste, fresh shallots, cucumber, pineapple slices and the slightly spicy sourish soup just complement each other so well. The soup will surely tease your taste buds and stirs up your appetite with every mouthful. Of course, it is such a pretty dish too!

Penang Malaysia Assam Laksa Recipe

Cuisine: Malaysian
Yields: 8 servings
Calories: 565 calories
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hours 30 minutes
Total: 2 hours
Keywords: fish, rice noodle


  • 1 1.2 lb mackerel fish
  • 8 cups water
  • 5 pieces asam keping, peeled tamarind
  • laksa noodles
  • 15 dried red chilies
  • 5 fresh red chilies
  • 8 small shallots
  • 1 inch galangal
  • 2 tablespoons belacan, shrimp paste
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • tamarind, about golf ball size
  • 1/2 cup water, repeat 3-4 times
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
  • 1 cucumber, julienned
  • 1 bunch mint leaves, use only the leaves
  • 1 bunch polygonum leaves/Vietnamese mint leaves/ daun kesom/daun laksa
  • 1 bungan kantan/torch ginger flower, cut into small pieces
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 lettuce, thinly cut
  • 1 red chili/3-4 bird’s eye chilies, cut into small slices
  • 1 small pineapple, cut into short strips
  • Heh Ko/Prawn Paste

How to Cook

  1. Clean the fish, remove scales and guts. In a pot, bring 8 cups of water to boil. Add in the fish and boil for about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked fish out into a bowl and let cool. Strain the fish stock, then add in the peeled tamarind, and the polygonum leaves and continue to boil in low heat.
  2. Wet your hands constantly with a bowl of water, pick the flesh out of all the fish and discard the bones. Break the fish meat into tiny pieces and put the fish back into the stock, cover the lid, and lower the heat.
  3. Using a mini food processor, grind the spice paste until fine. Heat up a wok and saute the spice paste with cooking oil for about 6-8 minutes or until it smells aromatic and spicy. Transfer the spice paste into the boiling stock.
  4. Extract the tamarind juice and add it into the stock. Strain the tamarind juice and keep the seed. Repeat it 3-4 times with 1/2 cup of water each time to make sure you extract all the essence from the tamarind. Continue to taste your Assam Laksa stock to make sure it’s sour and to your liking. For seasoning, add salt and sugar to taste.
  5. In a serving bowl, add in the laksa noodles and garnish all vegetables on top. Pour the fish broth into the bowl and serve immediately with a spoonful of Heh Ko/prawn paste.

2 thoughts on “Asam Laksa – Authentic Penang Malaysia Assam Laksa Recipe”

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