What makes Sarawak Laksa so special?

A scoop of tantalising and rich gravy poured onto a bowl of rice noodles and scrumptious toppings to make Sarawak Laksa.

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By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, July 28: The ever-popular and ubiquitous Sarawak Laksa is one of the many different types of laksa dishes in Malaysia, all of which are a type of spicy noodle soup dish served with a variety of cooked chicken, prawns or seafood.

It is one of the signature dishes of Kuching, which is unique compared to the other laksa dishes in the country because the broth has the perfect blend of spiciness, herbs and tanginess blended with the light creamy taste of coconut milk.

In 2015, the savoury broth noodle dish shot to international fame when the late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain endorsed it.

During a segment of one of his famous travel documentary shows named ‘No Reservations’ that he filmed in Kuching, he featured and described the dish which he had earlier shown on his Instagram account, captioning it with the now famous description: ‘breakfast of the gods’.

Many individuals in Kuching claim that the eatery they go to serves “the best laksa in town”, though others may beg to differ.

A bowl of Sarawak Laksa ready to be served.

So what makes Sarawak Laksa stand out from the rest? And which stall really serves the best laksa in town?

There are so many questions that are hungry to be answered.

This curiosity has recently prompted the writer to check out a laksa stall at Li Yuan Cafe here operated by a Teochew Chinese lady named Goh Lee Hoon.

Goh Lee Hoon at her stall preparing laksa dishes for her customers.

She said that she doesn’t have the answer to the best Sarawak Laksa in town.

“All I can say is that everybody has their favourite Sarawak Laksa and eatery. It could be the laksa gravy, the texture of the noodle and the environment and good company for a bowl of laksa. All this could influence the palate,” she opined.

“When I moved to the current premises 11 years ago from Kenyalang Park, my regulars moved to this spot. So maybe they like my Laksa and missed it. It’s hard to tell,” said Goh, who has been serving the same dish for nearly 24 years.

The self-taught Goh revealed that she learn how to make Sarawak Laksa by herself with the help of many friends who occasionally gave her tips to improve.

“The most important thing for a good Laksa is the gravy made from its paste. Laksa paste is a concoction of blended herbs and spices tantalising to the taste buds.

“These include dry chilli, coriander powder, paprika powder, cumin powder, turmeric powder, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, onion and shrimp paste,” she explained.

As Goh doesn’t make her paste, she has her supplier deliver it to her.

For Goh, making a perfectly balanced gravy the night before is a routine that she carries out almost every day.

“I boiled chicken parts and bones in water to make the base for my gravy for the paste. Some people used discarded prawn heads in their gravy, but I don’t,” she said

To make her perfect Sarawak Laksa, she wants her ingredients and gravy to be fresh.

“I only add the coconut milk to my gravy before I operate my stall. The same applies to the rice vermicelli and the toppings for the laksa — shredded chicken meat, the boiled prawn, the strip omelette, the bean sprout, the sliced limes, the shrimp paste relish, and the cut coriander leaves.

“Every item has to be fresh before I open my stall,” she reiterated.

Goh said that she is happy cooking and preparing the famed Sarawak Laksa for now, and will continue to do so until she eventually retires.

“If the person who first came up with this well-loved dish is still alive today, I am sure he or she will be pleased to see that this dish has brought so much joy to so many people, including the world-famous American celebrity chef, the late Anthony Bourdain,” she said.

Goh also serves Laksa Mee, and instead of using rice vermicelli, she used yellow egg noodles.

Her stall is located at Tabuan Height Commercial Centre, Jalan Song. It operates daily from 7am to 12pm except on Thursday. For further inquiries, call 016-898 9232. — DayakDaily