The two types of ‘laksa’ that Malaysians cannot live without are most probably the curry laksa and the assam laksa. Curry laksa loosely defined would be a coconut curry soup with noodles, whilst the assam laksa is a sourish fish soup with noodles.
Last week, we happened to try out these two distinctly different laksa’s at Mark’s Assam Laksa, in One Utama, Bandar Utama.
First up, the Curry laksa. Curry laksa’s main ingredients for most versions of curry laksa include tofu puffs, fish sticks, shrimp and cockles. Some vendors may sell chicken laksa as an option with added meat and value to their laksa. In Penang, the ever so infamous congealed blood is part and parcel of every good Curry Laksa.. (ask any Penangite.. they’d tell you.. !) Cockles are also a common ingredient unless customers request not to have cockles – many Malaysians feel that taking regular hepatitis booster jabs are sufficient because cockles are a ‘must have’ in any good bowl of curry noodles. Laksa is commonly served with a spoonful of sambal chili paste and garnished with coriander, or laksa leaf, which is known in Malay as daun kesum.
We found the curry laksa at Mark’s no bad but not great. More coconut could have been employed to make the soup richer, we thought. Also, the soup could have been spicier. The taste of the stock was good enough though, and they were generous with their tofu puffs and other ingredients.
Enter the Assam Laksa. I like mine with a generous dousing of Ha Kou (Thick, black, cloyingly sweet Prawn paste). Assam Jawa, otherwise known as the popular Tamarind, is what gives this fish based soup its characteristically sour kick. Some people use assam keping or assam gelugor to add more sourness to the soup.
I like Mark’s Assam laksa because it has a fair bit of shredded fish i.e. kembung fish or mackerel, and finely sliced vegetables including cucumber, onions, red chilis, pineapple, lettuce, mint leaves, lemongrass, lengkuas and bunga kantan in it. It might not be as thick with fish as the one at Rice Cafe (read about that here) but for its price, approximately RM7 per bowl, one cannot complain. The thick rice noodle is chewy and slippery. I love the way it complements the fishy, gritty texture of the stock. Again on the point of spiciness I feel that it could have been taken up a notch.
Penang style Chee Cheong Fun. My colleagues from Penang said that the Ha Kou itself gets 10 points for it’s smelly oopmh.. in a good way of course! Apparently the one here at Mark’s is as close as you will get to the Penang styled, stinky Ha Kou, Chee Cheong fun. The noodles were smooth and had a great texture. Delicious.
Penang style Yam Cake (Wu Tao Ko).. This was the least appetising of our orders that day because its was hard in texture. I always love that first sensation of sinking one’s mouth into a great yam cake, that is, a mixture of fried dried prawns, fried shallots, fresh spring onion and freshly cut chilli, and as it reaches that rich yam center.. Unfortunately all these great sensations were missing eating this yam cake. Read about one of the nicer Yam cakes I have had the pleasure of eating in Penang, here.
Anyway, all in all, a good place to stop for a quick bite in One Utama. Anytime you need a shopping break in One Utama, this is one place you can go for an Assam Laksa fix.
Mark’s Assam Laksa,
Lot G213A, Ground Floor, Promenade,
1 Utama Shopping Centre
Bandar Utama, PJ
Tel: 603 6273 5530