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Assam Laksa

Assam Laksa is considered Penang’s signature dish of Peranakan or Straits Chinese heritage. Throughout Malaysia there are many interpretations of Laksa (a spicy noodle soup), however, only the Penang version takes on a spicy and sour flavor. The pièce de résistance in Assam Laksa is its piquant, spicy and tangy fish broth made from poached and deboned mackerel, and flavoured with tamarind, lemongrass, chillies and belacan (shrimp paste).

Authentic Assam Laksa broth is a thick soup containing small chunks mackerel that is tart, flavourful and wonderfully aromatic. The noodle used in Assam Laksa is fresh rice vermicelli which is slightly thicker than the standard bee hoon that is used in stir fries. To round out the spiciness and tartness of the broth, a variety of fresh vegetables and herbs including julienned cucumber, mint leaves, Polygonum leaves, finely chopped bunga kantan (torch ginger), red onion, chillies, chopped pineapple and shredded lettuce garnish the noodles. The dollop of blackish-brown paste that comes in the soup spoon is heh ko, a type of prawn paste that is stirred into the broth before eating, which is slightly sweet and savoury, adding a further dimension to this dish. A whiff of the piquant and tangy aroma of Assam Laksa is sure to get your tastebuds salivating!

For the weight watchers among us, Assam Laksa can be considered a healthier option for hawker fare as the noodles are not fried and it comes with a healthy serving of fresh vegetables and herbs. Expect to pay around RM2.50 for a bowl of Assam Laksa.

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