Sarawak Laksa: Breakfast of the Gods
Sarawak Laksa, a delightful soup noodle dish originating from Sarawak, Malaysia, has garnered widespread acclaim both within the country and internationally. Renowned chef Anthony Bourdain famously declared it the “breakfast of the gods” and likened it to a heavenly culinary experience. What sets Sarawak Laksa apart from other variations of laksa is its distinctive shrimp-based broth, enriched with a tantalising laksa spice paste. In this blog post, we will explore the origins, unique flavours, and components that make Sarawak Laksa an absolute must-try for any food enthusiast.
The origins of Sarawak Laksa are attributed to Goh Lik Teck, a Cantonese migrant who introduced his spicy noodle creation along Carpenter Street in Kuching back in 1945. The recipe was subsequently passed down to a Cantonese lady, who, along with her assistant Tan Yong Him, developed their own version of the laksa spice paste. Tan played a pivotal role in popularising Sarawak Laksa during the 1960s by creating his own brand of laksa spice paste called ‘Swallow.’ This paste was distributed to various food stall owners in Sarawak, leading to its widespread inclusion on menus across the region. While the ‘Swallow’ brand is no longer available due to family issues, its influence can still be recognised in the overall flavour profile of Sarawak Laksa.
The heart of Sarawak Laksa lies in its fragrant and complex laksa spice paste. Typically consisting of shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, dried chillies, tamarind, peanuts, sesame seeds, and a medley of ground spices such as coriander seeds, cumin, star anise, cardamom, clove, and nutmeg, the paste undergoes a sautéing process to enhance its aromatic qualities. Chicken broth, prawn broth, and coconut milk are then added to create the flavourful base of the broth. Seasonings like soy sauce, vinegar, salt, or even fish sauce are incorporated to achieve the desired balance of flavours.
Sarawak Laksa is traditionally served with thin rice vermicelli noodles, generously topped with a vibrant assortment of garnishes. Chopped spring onions, boiled prawns, shredded chicken, and slivers of egg omelette adorn the dish, creating a visually appealing presentation. To further elevate the taste, a side dish of thick sambal belacan paste, made from shrimp paste and chilli, is served alongside, allowing diners to customise the spiciness according to their preference. A halved kalamansi lime is also provided, offering a refreshing citrusy note that balances the richness of the broth.
Sarawak Laksa has become a beloved culinary gem, not only in Sarawak but throughout Malaysia. Its unique flavours, vibrant colours, and satisfying textures have captured the hearts and taste buds of locals and tourists alike. Whether you’re a seasoned laksa enthusiast or new to the world of Malaysian cuisine, embarking on a Sarawak Laksa adventure is an absolute must. From the first spoonful of the fragrant broth to the harmonious blend of flavours in each bite, Sarawak Laksa promises an unforgettable gastronomic experience.