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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Malaysia in a bowl


EVERY STATE HAS ONE: Laksa listed as food 'to try before you die' by web newspaper


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Asam laksa is made up of ingredients from the different cultures of Malaysia. Pic by Chan Wai Yew
KUALA LUMPUR: CALL it "curry laksa", "asam laksa" or  "laksam", images of the steamy bowl of noodles soaked in gravy would likely have most people's mouths watering.
Laksa has been hailed as an iconic Malaysian food as it represented 1Malaysia food best, said local food experts and chefs.
The noodle dish was also listed as one of the "10 foods around the world to try before you die" by online newspaper The Huffington Post recently.
The listed foods included masala tosai from India, the Peking duck from China, and Japan's teppanyaki dish.
Here's how The Huffington Post, in its United States edition, described the curry laksa: "Malaysia's king of soups is a spicy, tangy, coconut-creamy soup packed full of noodles, seafood, fish sticks, puffed tofu, vegetables, a hard-boiled egg, coriander and chilli sambal."
The article acknowledged that the two variations of the dish, curry laksa and asam laksa, were modified according to the states.
Celebrity chef Datuk Ismail Ahmad, or popularly known as Chef Ismail, said the succulent dish had the best ingredients from the different cultures in Malaysia.
"With noodles from the Chinese , 'asam' from the Malays, and spices and 'masala' from the Indians, it is one of the best manifestation of our diversified culture,
"For example, the curry laksa is served differently in northern states by adding fried brinjal and long beans, whereas in other places, king prawns, shreds of chicken breast adorn the ceramic bowl," said Ismail.
The asam laksa is made up of translucent rice noodles submerged in fish broth, which also varies according to its locality.
In Johor, the laksa broth must be made from wolf-herring (ikan parang) where its many small bones would be crushed together and sifted to get the juice.
Kuching-born chef Yusmadi Basri said Sarawak laksa was unique as they used a special paste made from herbs and spices only found in the state.
"Even the gravy is made with water from boiled chicken or prawn for sweet flavour, and then mixed with light coconut milk."
Associate professor Chef Zamzani Abdul Wahab said the versatile dish was always modified according to the local tastebuds.
"In Terengganu, they used sardines to make the broth sweeter, as they liked their food sweet.
"Laksa Perlis would have slices of eel meat together with the unique twist of cashew shoots added in.
"Interestingly, laksa, which has many different ways of serving, can be likened to the people of Malaysia -- each of us are unique, but all are hailed as Malaysians."




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