Penang’s Asam Laksa (槟城亚参叻沙)

Delicious Penang's asam laksa with shrimp paste

[Updated September 2, 2019] The moment when I have the desire to start a food blog, the first recipe that flashed into my mind was the aromatic, spicy and scrumptious Asam Laksa that’s really filling and comforting. If you ever have a chance to travel to Southeast Asia countries, you’ll realize there are dozens of different ways to cook a laksa.

Laksa is typically a fish broth (usually mackerel) with a lot of spices to add acidity in the soup, but often you might also find another type of laksa that uses coconut milk plus chicken or shrimp soup. Today, I am going to introduce you the laksa that I usually eat during my pleasure weekend, the Penang-styled Asam Laksa. (Asam here means tamarind which gives the sour taste).

Some people prefer a more thicker laksa soup by blending the fish bones and meat, but I prefer a more clearer soup without the fish bones. It all depends on your favorite. (Note: make sure the fish bones are blended until smooth if you prefer thicker soup, otherwise you might risk yourself from swallowing the fish bones)

If you ever travel to Malaysia, don’t be surprise if you see someone eating this hot and spicy laksa on the hot afternoon because this is how we consume the laksa. Keep wiping the sweat, while still delivering the noodle and soup into the mouth until the satisfaction is fulfilled.

Penang's asam laksa soup ingredients - Vietnamese mint, tamarind paste, asam gelugor, himalayan salt, red chillies, lemongrass
Soup ingredients
Penang's asam laksa spice ingredients - galangal, lemongrass, turmeric, red chilies, belacan, bunga kantan
Spice ingredients

Penang’s Asam Laksa

Recipe by Zinc ChuangCourse: LunchCuisine: MalaysianDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time





Aromatic, spicy and scrumptious Penang’s asam laksa recipe.


  • 2 lbs fish (mackerel or kembung)

  • 2 lbs laksa noodles

  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste, dissolved in a cup of water

  • 2 to 3 asam keping / gelugor

  • 2 bunga kantan

  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised

  • 8 stalks Vietnamese mint (daun kesum)

  • Sea salt or Himalayan pink salt to taste

  • 6 to 8 cups water

  • Spice paste:
  • 20g dried chilies. Cut into smaller pieces, soaked in boiling water and drain well

  • 6 shallots, peeled and chopped

  • 1 stalk lemongrass

  • 1 inch galangal

  • 1/2 inch turmeric

  • 1 tbsp roasted belacan

  • Topping:
  • 200g pineapple, cut into smaller pieces

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 cucumber, shredded

  • 3 red chillies, thinly sliced

  • 1 bunga kantan, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup mint leaves

  • 1 cup lettuce, sliced

  • 2 – 3 tbsp shrimp paste / hae ko, to taste


  • Bring the water in the wok to a boil.
  • Place a steamer on the wok or on a glass plate if you do not have steamer. Steam over high heat for about 8 minutes, or until fully cooked.
  • Remove the fish from the steamer and let it cool for about 5 minutes.
  • Flake the fish. Remove the skin before flaking and reserve the bones for broth.
  • Boil the fish bones with 6 cups of water. Then lower the heat and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  • Blend the spice paste ingredients and set aside.
  • After 30 minutes of simmering, strain the fish broth and discard the fish bones.
  • Strain the tamarind which has been dissolved with water earlier and put it into the broth. Remember to discard the seeds.
  • Add blended spice paste into the broth.
  • Put the lemongrass, bunga kantan, daun kesum, asam keping into the broth. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Discard the daun kesum and bunga kantan.
  • Add half of the flaked fish into the broth.
  • Season the broth with sea salt. Bring it to a boil and the broth is done.
  • To serve, simply put the rice noodles in a bowl and ladle the boiling soup onto the noodles.
  • Topped with fish flakes, cucumber, pineapple, lettuce, red chillies, bunga kantan, mint leave and shrimp paste.


  • Before you prepare the ingredients, remember that bunga kantan will be the first ingredient to buy first. I almost fail to create this recipe because the supply of bunga kantan is quite limited for certain period.
  • When blending spices, you can add in some water if the paste is too chunky.

Feedback: creating a food blog has never been an easy task, especially when I am living in a place where it has tropical weather all year round. Some of the vegetables on the picture became dried when I was preparing the photoshoot material and I almost got fainted when I need to prepare ingredients, snap pictures, cook and snap pictures again in one day on the high temperature afternoon. But the experience is fun and I believe my food photography skill will become more professional one day.

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