Siamese Laksa (Penang Laksa Lemak)

Whilst I have had many wonderful experiences working with Masters of Malaysian Cuisine (MOMC) as a guest chef on MOMC@Heart, the undoubted highlight was being invited to feature on MOMC’s Malaysian Heritage Cuisine series in association with MAFI (Malaysian Ministry of Agriculture & Food Industries). What an honour it was to work alongside some of the greatest Malaysian chefs in the business, but also to have the opportunity to share one of my favourite family recipes – Siamese Laksa!

Also known as Penang Laksa Lemak, Siamese Laksa is unfortunately somewhat eclipsed by Penang’s most famous laksa – Assam Laksa. More’s the shame as Siamese Laksa is wonderfully aromatic and its rich broth isn’t as divisive as the hallmark sour fishy “love or loath” broth of Assam Laksa. In fact, given the choice, I would opt for a bowl of Siamese Laksa every time!

Based on a much loved family recipe handed down from my late Grandmother and preserved by my aunt, Rohani Jelani, this is a recipe of many parts. Though it might seem intimidating, the ingredients are relatively easy to source and the actual cooking time, albeit intensive, is actually quite short. Nonetheless, the results are worth the effort!

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Watch how to make this dish here:

Siamese Laksa (Penang Laksa Lemak)

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Serves: 4


Fish Stock:

2 dressed lemon sole

2 sardines, scaled and gutted

1 TSP tamarind paste

4 slices ginger

1 TSP salt

1 litre water

Spice paste:

10 dried chillies, soaked and snipped into 1 cm pieces

2 fresh red chillies, sliced

80 gm shallots, sliced (or a 50/50 mix of red/brown onion)

2 stalks lemongrass, sliced

1 cm ginger, sliced

1 cm turmeric, sliced (or 1 TSP ground turmeric)

2 garlic cloves, sliced

10 g shrimp paste (belacan)

Laksa Gravy:

4 TBSP oil

900 ml fish stock

2 stalks daun kesum (laksa leaves/Vietnamese Coriander)

1 TBSP dried bunga kantan (Torch Ginger), optional

2 large limau purut (Thai Makrut lime leaves)

2 TBSP tamarind paste

2 TSP salt

1 TBSP sugar

150 ml thick coconut milk

Noodles & Garnish:

400 g fresh laksa noodles (sub. udon)

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

2⁄3 cup pineapple, cut into strips

2⁄3 cup mint leaves

1 cucumber, shredded

1 red chilli, finely sliced

4 limes, halved & seeded

Heiko (Prawn Paste) diluted with a bit of hot water, optional


Fish Stock:

  1. Place the cleaned fish in a pan with tamarind, ginger, salt and water. Gently poach for 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes off the bone with ease.
  2. Remove the fish and flake into large pieces, discarding any skin and bones. Set the fish flakes aside.
  3. Strain the fish stock and reserve for later. 

Spice Paste:

  1. In a food processor, add all the spice paste ingredients along with a splash of water or cooking oil.
  2. Blend until smooth

Laksa Gravy:

  1. In a large stock pot, heat the oil and add the spice paste.
  2. Sauté on a medium to low heat until aromatic and the oil has separated from the spice paste.
  3. Add the reserved fish stock and bring to a boil before adding the laksa leaves, lime leaves, dried torch ginger, tamarind paste, salt & sugar.
  4. Reduce to a strong simmer then let it bubble away for 10 minutes.
  5. Add ¾ of the flaked fish to the broth, reserving the meatiest flakes for garnish. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
  6. Pour in the thick coconut milk and briefly bring the gravy back to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.
  7. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.

Assembling the dish:

  1. Blanch laksa noodles for 1 – 2 minutes.
  2. Place the noodles in individual bowls.
  3. Ladle over the hot gravy.
  4. Top with reserved fish flakes and prepared garnishes, with some optional hei ko on the side.
  5. Serve immediately.

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