Have you ever heard of Sarawak Laksa? I’m sure we are all familiar with the mouthwatering dish called laksa. Most places in Malaysia and South East Asia have their own impressive versions of the dish. Sarawak is no exception. It has its own unique version, known throughout the rest of Malaysia as Sarawak Laksa. However, to the local Sarawakians, it’s just plain old laksa.
Sarawak Laksa is a typical dish that most Sarawakians, including yours truly, eat during breakfast. Back in 2005, the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain even remarked it as being ‘one of the foods served in heaven’. His review on this dish during his visit to Sarawak has undoubtedly put Sarawak Laksa on the map.
So, the Sarawak version of the laksa must be something that is at least worth trying.
What Makes It Different?
Most people who have tried out Sarawak Laksa would make the common mistake of misidentifying it as Curry Laksa. This is another Malaysian variant of the dish. Sarawak Laksa actually tastes different from that. To sum it up briefly, it tastes like a combination of Curry Laksa and Asam Laksa.
I’ve tried both Curry and Asam Laksa. Curry Laksa is a coconut-based curry soup dish served with yellow noodles while Asam Laksa is tamarind-based which makes it sour, where it gets its namesake (Asam means sour in Bahasa Malaysia). The Sarawak version is definitely not the same as either of these two. The Sarawak Laksa has its own unique taste that sets it apart. The secret of its distinctive taste lies in the paste.
What Makes Sarawak Laksa Special?
Sarawak Laksa is made from a special paste with its own distinctive taste. This is because every restaurant or hawker stall in Sarawak makes their own home-made versions. The ingredients includes shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal and dried chillies. They are blended together with ground spices such as coriander seeds, cumin, star anise, cardamom, clove and nutmeg in preparing the paste. Coconut milk is then added to the mixture when it’s time to cook this delightful concoction.
You would typically serve the dish with rice noodles, beansprouts, boiled chicken, prawn and thinly sliced fried egg . A favourite of mine is the addition of cockles in the dish, which somehow makes it tastier. And, don’t forget to add sambal as a condiment to the dish. Sambal is a Malaysian condiment made with chili, garlic, shrimp paste, lime juice, onions and garlic. Without it, your culinary experience will not be complete.
Where Can You Get The Famous Paste?
If you want to make this dish at home, the easiest way is to buy commercial paste. It is available even in the Klang Valley. This surely saves a lot of time as compared to preparing the paste itself from scratch. The most famous paste is the ‘Swallow’ brand. This brand has been in the market since the 1970s.
Where can you get the laksa paste here in the Klang Valley? The supermarkets here generally don’t sell this native Sarawakian paste. The place where it’s readily available is the Sarawak Product Pavillion in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Eating Sarawak Laksa In Klang Valley
If you’re in the Klang Valley (the greater Kuala Lumpur area) or anywhere outside Sarawak, the next question in mind is where can you find a restaurant that serves genuine Sarawak Laksa? Nowadays, there are many restaurants that serve Sarawakian cuisine, both in the Klang Valley and in most Peninsular Malaysian cities.
This is due to the large number of Sarawakians residing in Peninsular Malaysia which led to some opening restaurants serving Sarawakian cuisine. Of course, the authenticity varies from one place to another.
My Regular Restaurant
I have tried several Sarawakian food restaurants during my time residing in Kuala Lumpur. After tasting the Sarawak Laksa on offer, I have narrowed down my personal favourite to one particular place, Dapur Sarawak Restaurant. I’ve been going to this restaurant regularly. After trying out the dish there, I found the taste to be authentic and similar enough to the ones served back in my hometown, Kuching.
The restaurant is just across the street from KPJ Hospital in Jalan Pahang. Mahmud Ali Bashah, a Sarawakian-born film and drama actor, started up Dapur Sarawak in 2008 and has expanded the business to another branch in Shah Alam. The first time I came here, I tried out the Sarawak Laksa. The restaurant served the food in generous portion and it tasted genuine enough. The decoration around the restaurant features traditional Sarawak artwork. This lends more to its authentic feeling.
The restaurant also offers other Sarawakian dishes such as Kolo Mee and Corned Beef Fried Rice. Kolo Mee is another Sarawakian signature dish. It is a noodle dish seasoned with red sauce or light soya sauce. The laksa tasted authentic enough to me. If you want to look for the perfect Sarawak Laksa, Dapur Sarawak Restaurant is a good starting point for your search. Go ahead, give it a try!
Where Is It Located?
Dapur Sarawak is located opposite KPJ Hospital at Jalan Sarikei, Off Jalan Pahang Barat, Kuala Lumpur. The nearest train station is the Titiwangsa LRT, which is just a few minutes’ walk away. The Kuala Lumpur branch opens daily from 10am until 10.30pm.
Its Shah Alam branch is located at XG-23, Jalan Plumbum X7/X , Seksyen 7 Shah Alam. It is open daily, except for Fridays, from 12pm until 12am. You can contact them for reservations or further information at +603 4031 7987, +6012 886 6240 or +6014 883 7211.