Course Lunch
Place of origin Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore
Region or state Southeast Asia
Main ingredients Laksa noodles or rice vermicelli, coconut milk, curry soup base
Variations Laksa, Asam laksa, Curry laksa, Nyonya laksa, Laksa lemak
Cookbook: Laksa  Media: Laksa
Chinese 叻沙
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 喇沙

Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup in the Peranakan cuisine,[1][2] which is a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine. Laksa consists of rice noodles or rice vermicelli with chicken, prawn or fish, served in spicy soup; either based on rich and spicy curry coconut milk, or based on sour asam (tamarind or gelugur). It can be found in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia[3] and Southern Thailand.[4]


The origin of the name laksa is unclear. One theory[5] traces it back to the Hindi word lakhsha, which is in turn derived from Sanskrit laksh (Devanagari: लक्ष) meaning "one hundred thousand" (lakh),[6] referring to the vermicelli noodles used in the dish. It has also been suggested[7] that "laksa" may derive from the Chinese word (Cantonese: [làːt.sáː]), meaning "spicy sand" due to the ground dried prawns which gives a sandy or gritty texture to the sauce. The last theory[8] is that the name comes from the similar-sounding word "dirty" in Hokkien due to its appearance.

Laksa is also known in Thailand as Laso (Thai: ละซอ)[4][9]


There are various theories about the origins of Laksa. In Indonesia, the dish is believed to have been born from the Chinese coastal settlements and the mixing of cultures between Chinese merchants and the local cooking practices.[10] As peranakan Chinese communities have blended their ancestors' culture with local culture, Peranakan communities in different places now demonstrate diversity according to the local flavour.[11] In Malaysia, the dish is believed to have been introduced by Chinese immigrants in Malacca.[12] In Singapore, the dish (or its local "Katong" version) is believed to have been created after interaction between the Peranakans with the local Singaporeans.[13][14]


Various recipes of laksas have gained popularity in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia; and subsequently international recognition. Initially in July 2011, CNN Travel ranked Penang Asam Laksa 7th out of the 50 most delicious foods in the world.[15] Its rank however, fall to number 26th after CNN held an online poll by 35,000 people, published in September 2011.[16] Singaporean Curry Laksa on the other hand ranked in number 44th.[16]

In Indonesia, laksa is one of the traditional comfort foods; the spicy warm noodle soup is much appreciated during cold rainy days. However, its popularity is somewhat overshadowed by soto, a similar hearty warm soup dish, which is often consumed with rice instead of noodles. In modern households, it is common practice to mix and match the recipes of laksas; if traditional laksa noodle is not available, Japanese udon noodles might be used instead.[17]


The type of laksa is based upon the soup base employed in its recipe; either rich and savoury coconut milk, fresh and sour asam (tamarind, gelugur or kokum), or the combination of the two. There are three basic types of laksa: curry laksa, asam laksa and other variant that can be identified as either curry or asam laksa. Curry laksa is a coconut milk curry soup with noodles, while asam laksa is a sour, most often tamarind-based, soup with noodles. Thick rice noodles also known as laksa noodles are most commonly used, although thin rice vermicelli (bee hoon or mee hoon) are also common, and some recipes might create their own rice noodle from scratch. Some variants might use other types of noodles; Johor laksa for example uses spaghetti,[18] while a fusion recipe might use Japanese udon noodle.[19]

Curry laksa

Curry laksa sold in Bukit Batok, Singapore
Laksam is a popular dish in Kelantan and Terengganu
Katong laksa and banana leaf otak-otak from Singapore
Bogor laksa, topped with yellow tofu
Betawi laksa with emping (melinjo cracker)
Banjar laksa, note the noodle-like balls and snakehead fish.

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 bean curd puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Some vendors may sell chicken laksa. Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of sambal chilli paste and 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). Curry mee in Penang uses congealed pork blood, a delicacy to the Malaysian Chinese community.

The term "curry laksa" is more commonly used in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Laksa is quite popular in Singapore, and curry laksa or nyonya laksa can be simply served as plain laksa, with just noodles and gravy, or with additional ingredients. Singaporean curry laksa ranked in number 44th of CNN World's 50 best foods.[16] Recently, several modern twist of curry laksa has been developed, such as laksa yong tau foo which is stuffed tofu laksa, and a premium upgrade of lobster laksa.[20]

In Indonesia, most of laksa variants are coconut milk-based soup, thus can be categorized into curry laksa. Common spices include turmeric, coriander, candlenut, lemongrass, garlic, shallot and pepper cooked in coconut milk. Widely available daun kemangi (Indonesian lemon basil leaf) is commonly used instead of daun kesum. Bihun or thin rice vermicelli is most commonly used noodle instead of thick rice noodle, and some recipe might add slices of ketupat or lontong rice cake. Bogor laksa uses ground oncom into its soup.

Variants of curry Laksa include:

Asam laksa

A bowl of Penang laksa, a variant of Asam laksa.

Asam laksa is a sour, fish and tamarind-based soup. Penang Asam Laksa listed at number 26th on World's 50 most delicious foods complied by CNN Go in 2011.[16] Asam is the Malay word for any ingredients that makes a dish tastes sour (e.g. tamarind, gelugur or kokum). Laksa typically uses asam keping, known as kokum in the English speaking world, which is a type of dried slices of sour mangosteens. The modern Malay spelling is asam, though the spelling assam is still frequently used.

The main ingredients for asam laksa include shredded fish, normally kembung (small mackerel of the Rastrelliger genus), and finely sliced vegetables including cucumber, onions, red chillies, pineapple, lettuce, common mint, daun kesum (Vietnamese mint or laksa mint) and pink bunga kantan (torch ginger). Asam laksa is normally served with either thick rice noodles or thin rice noodles (vermicelli). And topped off with petis udang or "hae ko" (蝦膏), a thick sweet prawn/shrimp paste.

Variants of asam laksa include:


Laksa Sarawak
Laksa Kelantan

Several variants might combines both coconut milk and tamarind, fish, chicken and prawn, thus can be identified as either curry or asam laksa.

Summary table

The general differences between curry laksa,asam laksa and Sarawak laksa are as follows:

Curry laksaAsam laksaSarawak laksa
Coconut milk is usedNo coconut milk usedCoconut milk is used
Curry-like soup (includes curry as one of its ingredients)Fish paste soup, tastes sour due to tamarind (asam)Red curry-like soup (does not use curry)
Except for bean sprouts, no other vegetable is usedPineapple, shredded cucumber, raw onions may be usedExcept for bean sprouts and fresh coriander as garnish, no other vegetable is used.
Bean curd puff is usedNo bean curd puff usedNo bean curd puff used
Served with thick or thin rice vermicelli (usually thick). Occasionally served with yellow mee.Served with thick or thin rice vermicelli (usually thick)Served with thin rice vermicelli only
Hard-boiled egg may be addedNo hard-boiled egg addedSliced omelette is used
Slices of fish cake and either prawns or chicken is usedFish, usually kembung, is usedWhole prawns and serrated chickens are used
  • Laksa lemak
  • Katong laksa
  • Nyonya laksa
  • Johor laksa
  • Asam Laksa
  • Penang laksa



Laksa is simply referred to or ordered at a restaurant as laksa (curry laksa) or asam laksa. By default, laksa means the standard curry laksa while asam 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.

Malaysian Tourism Board Controversy

In 2009, as part of a national food branding exercise, Malaysian Minister of Tourism Ng Yen Yen attempted to claim ownership for regional dishes such as Laksa, Hainanese Chicken Rice and Bak Kut Teh, claiming that others have "hijacked their dishes". This led to discontent with its regional neighbours.[36][37][38] Ng later clarified that she was misquoted on her intention to patent the foods, and that a study on the origins of the foods would be conducted "and an apology conveyed if it was wrongly claimed." To date, the results of the study has not been made public.[39]

See also


  1. "Assam Laksa". Citrus and Candy. January 24, 2011.
  2. "Laksa Lemak Recipe - Malaysia (Gordon's Great Escape)". May 23, 2011.
  3. Lara Dunston (October 24, 2012). "Laksa: Discovering Malaysia's signature dish". Asian Correspondent.
  4. 1 2 3 "เปิบเมนูเด็ด ต้นตำรับความอร่อยทั่วทิศ". Thairath (in Thai). 9 July 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  5. Winstedt, Sir Richard (Olaf), An Unabridged Malay–English Dictionary (5th ed., enlarged) (Kuala Lumpur: Marican & Sons, 1963)
  6. But in this Indonesian language dictionary, "Laksa" means 10000, Ten thousand (of Sanskrit origin)
  7. Hutton, Wendy, Singapore Food (Marshall Cavendish, 2007) [Wendy-Hutton]
  8. Spiles, Jason, Asian Food (John & Peters, 2005)
  9. "จัดใหญ่ 'อาหารไทย' เพื่อสุขภาพ". Komchadluek (in Thai). 15 July 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  10. Prodita Sabarini quoting Myra Sidharta (October 24, 2012). "'Dapur Naga': A peek into 'peranakan' cuisine". The Jakarta Post.
  11. 1 2 3 Corry Elyda (13 February 2015). "Weekly 5: Delicacies of Tangerang 'peranakan'". The Jakarta Post.
  12. Lara Dunston (October 24, 2012). "Laksa: Discovering Malaysia's signature dish". Asian Correspondent.
  13. Urvija Banerji (October 24, 2012). "How Intermarriage Created One of the World's Most Delicious Foods". Atlas Obscura.
  14. "Laksa Origins". National Library Board.
  15. "World's 50 best foods". July 21, 2011.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Tim Cheung (7 September 2011). "Your pick: World's 50 best foods". CNNGo. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  17. Theodora Hurustiati (27 October 2012). "Weekend Bites: Melting pot laksa to keep warm on rainy days". The Jakarta Post.
  18. 1 2 Frederica Ermita Indriani (August 9, 2012). "Laksa Johor, a royal treat for every palate". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  19. "Spicy Malaysian Tofu Laksa with Udon Noodles". haute chef.
  20. "22 lobster dishes in Singapore, Lobster Laksa". Hungry Go Where? Singapore. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  21. Terengganu government tourism – Laksam.
  22. "Laksa Bogor" (in Indonesian). Femina. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  23. "Laksa Cibinong (Jawa Barat)" (in Indonesian). Nova. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  24. "Kelezatan Langka Laksa Betawi" (in Indonesian). Femina. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  25. "Laksa Tangerang" (in Indonesian). Femina. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  26. "Palembang Traditional Food". Sriwijaya Post. 21 November 2011. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  27. "Laksa Palembang" (in Indonesian). Femina. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  28. Salmah (18 November 2011). "Kuah Haruan Yang Bikin Gurih" (in Indonesian). Tribun Kalteng. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  29. "Thai Laksa". All Recipes.
  30. "Laksa Medan" (in Indonesian). Femina. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
  31. "3 hungry tummies: The Secret Of Sarawak Laksa Paste Revealed - My 500th Post". Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  32. "Best Sarawak Laksa in Kuching". The Malaysian Insider. 29 April 2015.
  33. "Laksa Kelantan".
  34. "Intangible Heritage Objects".
  35. "Laksa Tambelan" (in Indonesian). Femina. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  36. "Laksa: Discovering Malaysia's signature dish". Asian Correspondent. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2016. Although laksa can also be found in Indonesia and Singapore, it is Malaysian in origin and Malaysia remains the best place to try it in its many forms.
  37. ENG HOCK, TEH (17 September 2009). "Laksa and nasi lemak among our pride, says Yen Yen". The Star Online. Retrieved 11 January 2016. There were many dishes synonymous with Malaysia’s identity but they had been "hijacked" by other countries.
  38. Loh. "Food fight! Malaysia wants its 'unique' dishes back". Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  39. ENG HOCK, TEH (23 September 2009). "No intention to patent local food, Dr Ng says". The Star Online. Retrieved 12 January 2016. Dr Ng said a study on the origins of foods in the country would be conducted and an apology conveyed if it was wrongly claimed..
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