New Recipes

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

Penang Assam Laksa
Penang Assam Laksa pictures (1 of 10)

Before I start writing this post, I have a confession to make. I have an Asian (Chinese/Malaysian) mouth. In my gastronomic dictionary, it simply means that I can’t live without rice and noodles, soy sauce, sambal belacan, spicy and pungent food–the foods of my Chinese-Malaysian root.

Just this past week, I had a massive Asian mouth attack. Granted, I savored some of the best French foods–foie gras, cheese, mussels, seafood, duck, terrine, and the list goes on. However, three days into eating meals after meals of immaculate French food, I got bored of it…it’s too heavy and luxurious for my cheap taste. No offense to French cuisine connoisseur, I wanted something without cream or butter or sauces or excessive details; I wanted something simple and straightforward such as my Asian rice and noodle dishes–Hokkien mee, fried rice noodles, steamed rice rolls, char kway teow, chicken rice, and especially Penang Assam Laksa.

Penang Assam Laksa

On the flight back home, I knew that I had to make Penang Assam Laksa to cure my Asian mouth disease and fix my craving. So, I went to the market and assembled the long list of ingredients and made myself a small pot of Penang Assam Laksa, or Nyonya noodles in spicy and tangy fish broth/soup.

A staple–and arguably the most famous–hawker food in Penang, Penang Assam Laksa is very addictive due to the spicy and sour taste of the fish broth. Tamarind is used generously in the soup base and hence the word Assam (means tamarind in Malay). In addition to tamarind, assam keping or peeled tamarind is also commonly added to give it extra tartness. Another secret ingredient is Polygonum leaf (marketed as Vietnamese mint leaf in the United States) or daun kesom/daun laksa. While the best Assam Laksa broth is infused with the aromatic ginger flower (bunga kantan), I made without it because I couldn’t find this special ingredient in the market. Of course, no Assam Laksa is complete without belacan and dollops of heh ko/prawn paste (the dark paste on the spoon).

Polygonum Leaves/Vietnamese Mint Leaves (Daum Kesom/Daun Laksa)

Anyway, my Penang Assam Laksa was spot on–hot, spicy, sour, pungent, and full of flavors. It was very delicious and as good as the ones served by hawkers in Penang. At the first taste of this Penang Assam Laksa, I felt like being home. For now, I declare my my Asian mouth syndrome sorted.

Other “rice & noodles” recipes on Rasa Malaysia:

  1. Penang Char Hor Fun (炒河粉)
  2. Penang Hokkien Mee (Prawn Mee / Har Meen / Mee Yoke / 福建虾面)
  3. Claypot Chicken Rice (without Claypot)
  4. Penang Chee Cheong Fun/Steamed Rice Rolls
  5. Kerabu Bee Hoon
  6. Indian Mee Goreng/Indian Fried Noodles
  7. Fried Vermicelli Xiamen Style
  8. Malaysian-style Soto Ayam/Chicken Noodle Soup

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114 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Manggy

    Welcome back!
    That’s the great thing about learning to cook– in any part of the world you can satisfy your very specific craving :p

  2. Andaliman

    RM, I can understand why you get bored, since I work and have to cook Western style food all the time.

    Those leaves, in Indonesia, it’s known as daun laksa.

  3. Anonymous

    Yummm….salivating just looking at the photo and waiting for the recipe!! Luckily, recently in New Zealand, I found bunga kantan!! Thanks for the wonderful blog.


  4. Love_at_first_bite

    Wow those look sooo good! I know exactly what you mean about having an Asian mouth. I spent a month in Spain and by the end of it I had tried more Chinese restaurants in the town i was in than i had tapas bars. I’m going to have to make some Hokkien Mee with your recipe this week after seeing this post.

  5. rebekah

    Oooooh!! Beautiful photos of one of my favourite Malaysian foods. I can almost smell it. :)

    I can’t wait for the recipe. I love Assam Laksa and have been looking for a really good recipe for ages.


  6. Terry B

    What beautiful photos! I know what you mean about the tastes of home. When we travel, no matter how wonderful the cuisine is [and France is about as good as it gets to me], coming home to our own kitchens is always so welcoming.

  7. R khooks

    Oh my goodness! I know exactly how you feel. I live in Paris and people don’t believe when I say malaysian/asian cuisine is the best. Nothing beats a bowl of steaming spicy assam laksa or won ton mee or rendang curry…just thinking of it is making me drool ;-)

  8. lucia

    asam laksa! i love it! yes indeed it is da’ femes (in team bsg style) hawker food in penang!

    i’m sure your asam laksa is very delicious, BY, from the look of it.

    aiya but pity no ginger flower as that is the ingredient i love most. in fact whenever i buy laksa i always ask them to add more ginger flower.

    about this polygonum leaf – it is call ‘poo hor’ in hokkien right?

    • joey

      not “poo hor”!! “poo hor” is mint leaf…. if i’m not mistaken this leaf should call “chian hong” in hokkien! mostly use in asam curry

  9. Chuck

    I know exactly what you mean about getting Asian cravings while in France. I enjoy French cuisine, but after a few days I also need a fix of Asian flavors, especially the heat from chili peppers!

    Every time I visit Paris, I’ll end up in the Vietnamese district to get some comfort food. Plus, it’s easier to communicate in Vietnamese than in my bad French.

    BTW, the polygonum leaf is rau răm in Vietnamese, a.k.a. Vietnamese coriander.

  10. JadedOne

    Welcome back RM!! Dude, I totally feel you on the Asian mouth thing. I mentioned this on my blog, but towards the last part of our France trip, we started eating ramen to hold us over until we got home. The first week getting home, we ate Asian food exclusively hehe.

  11. Anonymous

    The pics are amazing! Did u try the fish soup in France? It looks like laksa but without the assam flavour. I can get dried bunga kantan (by Hup Loong) here in Canada for C$2/pkt. I’ll be more than happy to send u some.
    Now I am getting hungry…..

  12. Oppss

    Oh my god!!!! your asam laksa looked great!! Drooling~~
    I love asam laksa and have been craving for it. Never made it myself coz hubby doesnt really fancy it. I dont want to spend time and effort making it and end up eating all by myself.
    awww.. wish you are one of my neighbors. >_<

  13. Piggy

    wow, the laksa must be yummy with so much of shredded fish in the broth! (massive drooling!)

    Do you think that cooking Penang laksa is tedious? I tried it once, but I’ve not been cooking it again… the whole process is just too daunting for me.. ;-)

  14. annechung

    I blog about how terrific food is abroad but secretly I eat more Chinese food when I’m traveling. Every where in France, even in remote villages we sneak into Chinese restaurants many times during the trip, even in Paris, we just can’t shake this craving for Chinese/Malaysian food. We can almost call London home because of the great Chinese food.I’m with you.

  15. Hazza

    Great looking dish you made there! How many servings did you do? Seems a lot of trouble for one meal.. I admire your motivation to do this elaborate dish.

  16. WokandSpoon

    I LOOOVVVEEE assam laksa! Haven’t had it for ages though – and I’m too lazy to make it! I’ll just have to wait till my mum visits me again so she can make it for me! You’ve definitely given me a craving!

  17. Imbi &amp; Itchy

    I have those cravings too whenever I travel but the funny thing is, whenever I’m back home, I’d get adventurous with non-Malaysian food soon after. Well …

    Your laksa looks good! Still can’t find good ones in KL as oppose to those served in Penang.

  18. Veron

    You absolutely make the best looking and I’m sure best tasting dishes. I say this because you could make an unfamiliar dish look so infinitely appealing to me!

  19. PrincessJournals

    love love love anything assam! *wink* yup, sad tht we cant find bunga kantan here. i wonder if s&k wud be able to get us some thru their ‘connection’.

    i also have daun kesum and since im not as rajin as u r, i use them in my asam laksa maggi. takde real asam laksa, maggi pun jadilah kan? hehe.

  20. mycookinghut

    Looks delicious!!! Where I come from, our Laksa tend to be served with hard boiled egg, which I love so much and lots of Mint leaves!! Soupe de Poisson and the Laksa fish soup are different in the sense of the taste as we Malaysians tend to use a lot of spices in the aspect cooking. For them, it could be too spicy.
    Next time if you go to France again, try Bouillabaisse – the traditional Provençal fish stew. It’s way better than Soupe de Poisson. Tastier and more interesting!

  21. MyF

    i so loveee laksa so much i can’t live without it! urs looks gorgeous! i can imagine the long ingredients… but its so worth all the effort! :-)

  22. Rasa Malaysia

    All – thanks for your comments. I love them…keep them coming.

    Lucia – no, polygonum leaf is called “cham hom”, por ho is mint leaf.

    Chuck – noted about Vietnamese coriander. :)

    Anonymous – mackerel is great for laksa and they are not hard to find in the market.

    Anonymous – thanks for your offer abour dried bunga kantan, I know those, but it’s just not the same. ;)

    Cooking Hut – I know about hard-boiled eggs, they are usually offered in Malay Assam Laksa, but not Chinese ones. I love it though. I did try Bouillabaisse, it tastes like soupe de poisson with seafood…similar stock I believe. I think I still prefer Italian Ciopinno in that sense. :P

  23. Anonymous


    i’ve read & copied ur recipe, but there are a few things which i don’t understand..

    firstly i stay in singapore, so most of the spices should be available in provision shops if i’m correct.

    1. what’s assam keping? peeled tamarind?- so am i supposed t buy 2 tamarinds and peel one of them?

    2. How do i get the tamarind juice? – do i need t pound the whole tamarind or the juice will come out once water is added?

    3. Do i put the peeled tamarinds without crushing or anything in the pot?

    4. Can i pre-process & saute the spices into a paste and keep it in the fridge till i need t use it, or do i have t do on the spot?

    5. Where do i get fish sauce and what exactly is it?

    6. What does “1 cucumber (julienned)” stand for?

    …I’m looking forward to cook this dish for my mom(:
    We both love penang laksa so much that we always travel t malaysia t have it(:

    also, sorry for being such a bug by troubling you):

    hahah i’m quite a lousy cook, so i don’t really understand the cooking terms. hee:P


  24. Anonymous

    RM, the dish looks awesome. There are so many kinds of mackerel here – Indian, American, Norwegian, Galong-galong! Can you tell me which kind is better? Thank you so much….

  25. laura

    WOW!!! I just found your site. I haven’t had assam laksa for decades. I had recipes from Malaysia but they all are long-winded and majority of the stuff I can’t fine here in Ottawa Canada.
    Your recipe is a tad shorter so I’m gonna go hunt up some of the ingredients. Probably won’t get everything but I figure something is better than NOTHING! I so miss the food in M’sia.

  26. June

    HEY =)
    i gave this recipe to my mum and she went to the tamu and markets just to find all the ingredients! Thx so much for posting the recipe!! This recipe is my mum’s fav!

  27. Anonymous

    I regret not getting all the ingredients that couldn’t begotten easily here in UK before I fly over..
    Now, have to make do with the second or no grade ingredients I could find in Asia Market here :(
    Gosh, looking over these pics at the middle of the cold winter night, my stomach growls for more..
    Assam laksa is always my TOP 1 food..will definately make it one day, soon enough!
    THanks for the recipe.

  28. Mei


    1. what's assam keping? peeled tamarind?- so am i supposed t buy 2 tamarinds and peel one of them?

    Assam keeping or tamarind slices are pre-prepared already and made from dried tamarind fruit so it's usually dried. Buying two tamarinds and slicing them won't give you the same effect, unfortunately.

    2. How do i get the tamarind juice? – do i need t pound the whole tamarind or the juice will come out once water is added?

    You need to buy a block of tamarind paste from your Asian store, add water and strain to retain the juice.

    3. Do i put the peeled tamarinds without crushing or anything in the pot?

    Dried peeled tamarinds need to be washed clean before tossing them into the pot.

    4. Can i pre-process & saute the spices into a paste and keep it in the fridge till i need t use it, or do i have t do on the spot?

    If you like, you can keep the balance and use it for other things like spicy sour curries and so forth.

    5. Where do i get fish sauce and what exactly is it?

    Fish sauce is nampla in Thai and you can get it at any Asian store.

    6. What does "1 cucumber (julienned)" stand for?

    Julienne is a cooking term that refers to thinly slicing items into stripes.

  29. laksa lover

    my most favourite penang food,even though i am a penang girl…XD
    tx to have the fantastic picture here to release my enzire

  30. PaiLi

    I love your recipes! Have a question and hope you’ll be able to reply soon! Wanting to make Assam Laksa this weekend and have been craving for it.

    Where do you get Bunga Kantan & prawn paste? I live in South Bay area, California. Haven’t seen any of those in Ranch or Lions, etc. Can you tell me where you find them?

    Thanks so much in advance!

  31. Karen

    Are you able to get your hands on a Thai Laksa recipe. There is this Penang restaurance in Megamall in KL that serves this dish and it is super yum.

    Any chance that you can get your hands on this recipe ?

  32. Nancy

    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 !

  33. kamil

    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 ).

  34. Hi,
    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

  35. KiranKaur

    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.

  36. alexchu

    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.

  37. JJ

    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!!

  38. paleen

    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

  39. Soo

    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.

  40. pri

    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.

  41. joey

    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! :)

  42. Shareen

    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!

  43. Ai Lin


    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?


  44. 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 :)

    • 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.

  45. portchester

    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

  46. Ah Kek

    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.

  47. Bunny

    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.

  48. Riya Za

    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..

  49. Chris Blair

    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

  50. Yuiny

    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?

  51. Valla

    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.

    • Andrew C

      The chilies are used as the topping as for the other toppings mixed into the assam laska, the secret is in the broth itself get the right and you be in the penang hawker’s.

  52. Isabel

    Hello Rasa Malaysia. Thank you for the amazing Assam Laksa recipe. Been craving for it for awhile now. I was wondering, where did you get belacan? I live in Minneapolis/St. Paul but I have yet to be able to find belacan.

  53. Gerald Anthony

    Nyonya….oh,Nyonya…that’s laksa photo brings so many good memories…I really miss good Malaysia food, here in Sydney, Malaysian food is average “boleh tahan”…but nothing like the real stuff…if anyone living in Sydney who know good authentic Malaysian food restaurant or outlet, please email me at:-

    Gerald Anthony

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