Asam Laksa

5 stars

‘Asam laksa’ hails from Penang, a state in Malaysia. This noodle dish is served in a tangy fish broth that teases and tantalizes the taste buds. This authentic asam laksa noodle dish is easily recreated by using fresh mackerel and a bunch of herbs.

Preparation 30 mins
Cooking 90 mins


Assam Laksa, Malaysian Sour and Spicy Fish Soup Noodles, Penang Asam Laksa

Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian

Nutrition per Serving

271 kcal
34 g
9 g
16 g

Asam laksa may be the best laksa ever. Even food explorer guru Anthony Bourdain loves this sour and spicy noodle dish. He claimed that he never fails to have it each time he travels to Penang. I can understand his enthusiasm when I sat almost exactly where he had his bowl of Malaysian sour and spicy fish soup noodles.

Type of fish used in Asam 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 asam 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!


250 g
2 l
chilli peppers (dried)
5 g
shrimp paste (dried)
5 g
turmeric (fresh)
10 g
lemongrass stalk(s)
Vietnamese coriander/daun kesum
80 g
tamarind paste
shrimp paste (petis udang)
chilli peppers (fresh)
pineapple cubes

Steps to Prepare

Asam Laksa Step 1

Step 1 of 6

    • 250 g mackerel(s)
    • 1 l water

Cook fish in water at low heat for 10 minutes. Then, remove fish. Sift broth to remove impurities. Leave them aside.

Asam Laksa Step 2

Step 2 of 6

Blend dried chillies, shrimp paste, turmeric, galangal, shallots and lemon grass. Add a bit of water to ease the blending process. Then, add blended ingredients into a pot of boiling water. Once water boils, add Vietnamese coriander and turn the heat down to let it simmer.

Asam Laksa Step 3

Step 3 of 6

Remove flesh from the fish. Discard the skin and bones. Mash half of the flesh with a fork.

Asam Laksa Step 4

Step 4 of 6

    • 80 g tamarind paste

Add fish broth into soup. Increase the heat. Add tamarind paste and mashed fish. Bring to boil.

Asam Laksa Step 5

Step 5 of 6

    • salt
    • sugar

Allow the soup to simmer at low heat for 15 minutes. Add salt and sugar to taste. Shortly before serving, remove Vietnamese coriander from the soup.

Asam Laksa Step 6

Step 6 of 6

    • shrimp paste (petis udang)
    • 2 calamansi
    • lettuce
    • shallot(s)
    • chilli peppers (fresh)
    • cucumber(s)
    • pineapple cubes

Blanch noodles with hot soup. Place noodles into a bowl and top it up with laksa broth, shrimp paste ('petis udang'), pieces of fish, slices of lettuce, cucumber, pineapple, shallots and chillies. Garnish with mint leaves and half a Calamansi lime.

Published: May 21, 2016

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