Planning a trip to Sarawak in the beautiful island of Borneo? Don’t miss out on the chance to savor the local Sarawakian cuisine, particularly the flavorsome Sarawak Laksa that is unlike any other!

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    Sarawak Laksa & Paste: A Unique Dish in Sarawak, Malaysia

    What is Sarawak Laksa?

    Laksa is a traditional noodle dish that dates back to the period of long-distance trade in the Southeast Asian region. The name Laksa comes from the Sanskrit word ‘lakshah’ - which means one hundred thousand. This shows the diverse cultural influences that were involved in the creation of this seemingly simple dish.

    Sarawak Laksa is the most special type of Laksa in Malaysia because the soup is a delectable combination of both coconut milk and tamarind paste blend. Word has it that the soup of an authentic bowl of Sarawak Laksa is prepared using more than 20 flavourful ingredients. It is no surprise why it is regarded as the “Breakfast of the Gods” by the late celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, during his visit to Borneo.

    Another thing that makes Sarawak Laksa so special is in its cooking method which uses both chicken and shrimps. This unique combination audaciously breaks the common rule of the typical Laksa soup, which is commonly fish-laden.

    Sarawak Laksa
    Sarawak Laksa is a unique dish in Malaysia

    Different Types of Laksa in Malaysia

    Laksa is typically categorized into two types; curry laksa or asam laksa. The key difference lies within the soup paste where all the robust flavors are developed. In essence, curry laksa is coconut milk-based whereas asam laksa is more sour and acidic due to its primary ingredient being tamarind.

    History of Sarawak Laksa

    The first bowl of Sarawak Laksa is believed to be a creation of Goh Lik Teck in the early 1945s along Kuching’s Carpenter Street. He prepared the soup using coconut milk but without curry. Instead, he replaced it with a delightful cocktail of flavours by bringing together tamarind paste, belacan or local shrimp paste, garlic, chillies, galangal, lemongrass and other local spices. The thick paste quickly gained popularity and was subsequently popularized by the Tan Yong Him’s family in the 1960s to 1970s. After a few tweaks, they eventually created the basic Sarawak Laksa paste which we know today. The paste was distributed under the brand name ‘Swallow’ by the family.

    laksa sarawak
    Laksa is typically cooked using fish broth, but Sarawak Laksa uses chicken and shrimps instead

    Sarawak Laksa Ingredients & Recipe

    Today, Sarawak Laksa has been recognized as a signature dish for Sarawak. The dish consists of thin rice vermicelli served in hot soup with shredded chicken and the freshest shrimps. The luscious soup is a playful fusion of coconut milk and tamarind paste, along with local herbs and spices that have been blended into a thick paste. The richness in aroma from the herbs and spices is balanced with the coconut milk that gives a subtle creamy texture. Tangy and tart, the tamarind paste injects hints of sourish notes into the soup.

    Sarawak Laksa is served with a garden of colourful toppings, typically consisting of shredded chicken strips, thin omelette strips and fresh coriander leaves. Other popular additions are fried tofu or bean curds, fishcakes and bean sprouts. A small saucer filled with a spicy shrimp paste sambal and calamansi lime is a must-have to complete the dish while taking it to the next level. Every component of the Sarawak Laksa comes together wonderfully to create a symphony of Borneon tastes and aromas.

    If you just can’t get enough of this slurp-worthy dish, remember to opt for the ‘special’ version which comes with extra generous portions of shrimps and toppings.

    sarawak laksa
    Swallow was the first Sarawak Laksa paste brand

    Most Popular Traditional Food in Sarawak

    On rainy days, Sarawak Laksa is a preferred comfort food. It is incredibly filling and instantly satisfies one’s cravings for spicy food. It is also widely considered as an all-day breakfast in Sarawak. Hence, it is a common item on the menu of cafes and restaurants across the state.

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