Penang Assam Laksa Recipe (Nyonya Hot and Sour Noodles in Fish Soup)
February 01st, 2008 111 Comments

Penang Assam Laksa Recipe (Nyonya Hot and Sour Noodles in Fish Soup)

Print Save

Recipe: Rasa Malaysia Penang Assam Laksa


1 lb Mackerel fish
8 cups water
5 pieces assam keping (peeled tamarind)
1 pack dried laksa noodles

Spice Paste:

12 dried red chilies (seeded)
5 fresh red chilies (seeded)
8 small shallots
2 teaspoons belacan
1 stalk lemon grass (use only the white part, about 6 inches)

Tamarind Juice:

Tamarind (about golf ball size)
1/2 cup water (repeat 3-4 times)


1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce


1 cucumber (julienned)
1 bunch mint leaves (use only the leaves)
1 bunch polygonum leaves/Vietnamese mint leaves (daun kesom/daun laksa)
1 bungan kantan (cut into small pieces)
1 red onion (sliced thinly)
1 lettuce (thinly cut)
1 red chili/3-4 bird’s eye chilies (cut into small slices)
1 small pineapple (cut into short strips)


Heh Ko/Prawn Paste


Clean the fish, remove scales and guts. In a pot, bring 8 cups of water to boil. Add in the fish and boil for about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked fish out into a bowl and let cool. Strain the fish stock, then add in the peeled tamarind, and the polygonum leaves and continue to boil in low heat.

Wet your hands constantly with a bowl of water, pick the flesh out of all the fish and discard the bones. Break the fish meat into tiny pieces and put the fish back into the stock, cover the lid, and lower the heat.

Using a mini food processor, grind the spice paste until fine. Heat up a wok and saute the spice paste with cooking oil for about 6-8 minutes or until it smells aromatic and spicy. Transfer the spice paste into the boiling stock.

Extract the tamarind juice and add it into the stock. Strain the tamarind juice and keep the seed. Repeat it 3-4 times with 1/2 cup of water each time to make sure you extract all the essence from the tamarind. Continue to taste your Assam Laksa stock to make sure it’s sour and to your liking. For seasoning, add sugar, salt, and fish sauce.

Prepare the laksa noodles by following the packaging instructions. In a serving bowl, add in the laksa noodles and garnish all vegetables on top. Pour the Assam Laksa soup into the bowl and serve immediately with a spoonful of Heh Ko/prawn paste.

Cook’s Notes:

For the best laksa noodles, please use Mount Elephant brand “Guilin Rice Vermicelli” (象山牌桂林濑粉) found at Asian/Vietnamese stores. (In Vietnamese, it’s called Bun Bo Hue Guilin.) It’s very smooth and exactly like the laksa noodles back home. If you are lucky, you might even find the fresh ones.
For a good alternative, try LaiFen Rice Stick/中山濑粉 from Guangdong, China.
Fresh rice noodles or laifen/濑粉 are available in Asian grocery stores, but I don’t like the texture: they are a tad too thick and not smooth enough.
Canned sardines DO NOT make good Penang Assam Laksa. They make the soup base fishy and unappetizing. There is no shortcut to making great Assam Laksa, you just have to find certain freshest fish and make it from scratch.

I heard that New York-based Chef Pelaccio of Fatty Crab fame claimed Assam Laksa to be the ultimate Malaysian dish.

Tagged as:

111 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Nancy says:

    hey.. i love penang asam laksa .. i am not malaysian .. but i used to live in KL and every single week i came to pasar malam just to get penang asam laksa … and when i went back to asia .. i spent my time in KL and ..guess what .. in 3 days i had penang asam laksa for my lunch .. i used to make penang asam laksa but now since i move to USA .. i dont know how to find bunga kantan … ullie, can u tell me, can i get something instead of bunga kantan ? what is bunga kantan in english ? .. i tried to make penang asam laksa without bunga kantan, taste was not good at all …. :( thx !

  2. kamil says:

    Assam Keping is called Asam Gelugur (scientific name is Garcinia atroviridis). It is not the same as tamarind (Asam Jawa in Malay or scientific name is Tamarindus indica ).

  3. Jay-P. says:

    I love European food too (mostly French, Spanish, Italian and Belgian) but I do understand that after a while it can be a bit too much. The great thing about Penang and its hawker food: a very wide offer and as the dishes come in not that large portions you can go out and eat almost all day! Just returned a few weeks ago from Pg and already looking forward to our next trip.
    (BTW also thanks for your steamed fish recipe – Am going to cook this with some local HK salt water fish.)
    Great blog,
    Cheers – JP

  4. Pingback:209. My mandate of heaven/ the places I’m going / our imaginary home « Fashion for Writers

  5. KiranKaur says:

    Hey, great recipe, just want to check one thing.
    For how many pax is this for?
    And how long approx will it take to prepare this dish.

    Please reply as soon as possible

    • It will take 2-3 hours to prepare this dish, it all depends how fast you are picking the fish from the bones.

      The serving size is about 4 people, about 2 servings. Again, it all depends how big a bowl you serve.

  6. alexchu says:

    thanks for the recipe. I love asian food. By the way, is there any way to make this taste richer? what should i do to make the taste richer? I made it last night, following all the steps, but it was missing something. It tasted diluted eventhough i added all the right amount of ingredients. By the way, does the taste change if i use ready made chilli paste?

    • The taste depends on the fish used, to make it taste richer, you can boil the soup longer so it thickens. Also add heh ko to the soup before serving.

      I never use ready made chili paste. I made my own.

  7. Pingback:» Food Going out Savoury » The one thing I had to eat

  8. JJ says:

    Erm.. yummy… I love Malay + Chinese cuisine.. Living abroad is not easy when it comes to our own authentic cuisine.. TQ for the wonderful site.. wah.. hungry!!

  9. Pingback:Perut Ikan | Perut Ikan Recipe | Nyonya Food & Recipes

  10. paleen says:

    Hi there,

    I think your website is brilliant! Cant wait for your book to be released.
    I’m getting married to a Penang-born and have no clue what they eat. I will definitely come back; probably everyday.

    The pictures sometimes make me feel like becoming a full-time cook or a full-time house-wife :D

  11. Pingback:News from the bubble « My little bubble

  12. Soo says:

    Hi. I love your website ! Anyway, can I cook the laksa without daun kesum? Any other alternatives that I can use to make a bowl of laksa that taste just as nice? I couldn’t find it around.

  13. pri says:

    What other fish can i use/ suitable for assam laksa besides mackerel?
    Im pregnant and i’ve been told not to take mackerel for it contains high level of mercury.

  14. Pingback:Penang Assam Laksa « Straight Out of Kampung

  15. mandy says:

    i love assam laksa, i try to makes assam laksa but didnt come with same test, i dont know how to makes hehehhe….

  16. Pingback:Kafir Lime Leaves, Vietnamese mint and shallots | My Notebook

  17. joey says:

    Hey RM, thank you so much for this recipe! Assam Laksa is possibly my most favourite Malaysian dish of all! :D

    I’ve got a rather… silly question about the fish. Is Spanish Mackerel the same as the mackerel fish you used? I can only find Spanish Mackerel in the market. (seems rather expensive as well)

    Thanks! :)

  18. Pingback:Today is World Refugee Day | writing off the wall

  19. Shareen says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. It was very authentic. I am in Cali as well and I just had to have my assam laksa fix, which could not be satisfied by Malaysian restaurants here!

  20. Ai Lin says:


    Can I know how much serves do you get from the above recipe? I am planning of having some Malaysian friends over (and some are Penang born!) and am planning for this.

    One more question which I don’t understand. You mentioned to add the peeled tamarind – you are referring to assam keping, right? Then later on, add the tamarind juice (the ones with seed) to the soup. Am I getting this right?


  21. RichBee says:

    I was just thinking of Penang Assam Laksa last night, one of
    my favoirite Malaysian dishes. Very hard to get ginger flower in Sydney
    too, flavor would be huge different without ginger flower! Thanks for the recipe :)

  22. portchester says:

    This is Thai food. Malaysians to get it done. Thais called kanomjeen

    • I have had kanomjee, it’s tastes very different as it’s coconut milk based while Penang assam laksa is sour and flavored with the unique Malaysian dark sticky heh ko, which is not available in Thai cuisine. Penang assam laksa is strictly and uniquely Malaysian, and you can’t find it anywhere in the world. A lot of Thai dishes are adaptation of Chinese food, for example: many noodle dishes such as Rad Na, Pad See Ew, do you call those Chinese food even though it’s very obviously Chinese-influenced? I think that’s why Asian food is so wonderful. The food is influenced by the neighboring countries but each has its own unique flavor and characteristic that make is unique only to that country.

  23. portchester says:

    Penang used to be in Thailand. Penang has a lot of Thai people. The youth division of the Thai people as well. Are important to people every time I feel the Penang Assam Laksa Recipe adapted from Thai food is kanomjeen

  24. Please be informed that I have added your Penang Asam Laksa recipe link to my blog post about the Torch Ginger Flower (Bunga Kantan). Thank you very much.

  25. Ellena says:

    Hi, I tried your penang assam laksa recipe recently and it was delicious!! Thanks :)

  26. WEIWAN says:

    hi where can i eat penang asam laksa in singapore
    tks u

  27. Serenity says:

    Hi, is tamarind peel (assam keping) different from the tamarind that you use to make the tamarind juice in the recipe?

  28. Ah Kek says:

    I have just tried this out and it turns out awesome!! I have also tried many of your other receipes and have been enjoying it! It gives me a lot of joy to enjoy Penang food while living in the cold Scandinavia country. Look forward to more good food and thanks for this website.

  29. Bunny says:

    Thanks for posting the recipe… Been in OZ for 3 years, sometimes have the urge for Malaysian cuisine…. Nothing like home food. You can only eat/take so much of barbies n bland food. Cheers.

  30. Riya Za says:

    Bunga kantan is only avalaible in Asia,,,we are Indonesian is commont to use it tp put in our dishes,,,,many food made from bunga kantan in our country,,,,But i missed Laksa Pinag Badly,,I never eat in any more since 1998,,,as I live in Hong Kong, where I can’t find it,,,and In indonesia we don’t have as well..

  31. Pingback:Penang Assam Laksa « Hack My Home

  32. Chris Blair says:

    Dear Bee,
    I have registered and would like to get the recipes please?
    How do I do that? I click and click but just get more food images coming up without the recipe…Many thanks Chris

  33. Monica says:

    Hi Bee,

    May I know how many servings can the recipe above serve? Thanks!

  34. Pingback:ON A SOUR NOTE | What's For Dinner

  35. Yuiny says:

    I am from Toronto,Canada, can’t seem to find assam keping and Heh-Ko over here. Is there any on line store you can recommend?

  36. I find this recipe interesting and i really love Penang asam laksa.

  37. Pingback:Torch Ginger Flower | Notes from a Novice Gardener's Journal

  38. Sun says:

    Will fresh sardine fishes do the job?

  39. Valla says:

    What kind of chiles do you use when you make Assam laksa? At the store there are so many different peppers with varying levels of spiciness.

  40. Xuan Ling says:

    Your pic looks exactly like another website from

    Which is the original recipe I should follow? Please advice. THank you

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Thanks for visiting Rasa Malaysia, #9 most popular cooking blog. Please like Rasa Malaysia on Facebook, join email or RSS for new recipes!

Facebook  |  Email  |  RSS