SARAWAK LAKSA

SALT Magazine - - Feature - Sarawak De­lights (204 Be­dok North Street 1)

Many Sarawakians liv­ing abroad of­ten rem­i­nisce about this beloved dish, whose flavour is rather dif­fi­cult to de­scribe— it’s nei­ther lemak nor as­sam. In the cap­i­tal of Kuch­ing, laksa is a break­fast dish served at cof­feeshops. Most lo­cals ar­rive at their favourite stalls as early as 8am to slurp up the noo­dles be­fore they are sold out, usu­ally around lunchtime.

Wong Mei See, who hails from Kuch­ing has been run­ning her stall Sarawak De­lights, in a Be­dok cof­feeshop, since March this year. She was work­ing in a fac­tory here for 26 years, but de­cided that she would fi­nally do some­thing that she re­ally en­joyed, now that she’s in her 40s.

When she heard that Red Horn­bill at block 205, which she fre­quented, wanted to let go of their busi­ness, she de­cided to buy it over from them. “I wanted to pour my heart into some­thing I re­ally like, and I ac­tu­ally re­ally like cook­ing noo­dles,” says Wong whose fam­ily runs a noo­dle stall in a cof­feeshop back in Kuch­ing.

For this Sarawak spe­cial­ity, the laksa paste is the main­stay of the de­li­cious gravy. About five decades ago, Tan Yong Him, founder of the Swal­low brand, made the paste pop­u­lar and avail­able through­out Sarawak. He ex­per­i­mented with his own paste made with shal­lots, onions, lemon­grass, galan­gal, dried chill­ies and can­dlenuts, plus 20 other herbs and spices (some sourced from Egypt and Iran). After blend­ing, the ground mix­ture was roasted and stirred in large woks for hours. To­day, the Swal­low brand is sadly no longer in pro­duc­tion, but other sim­i­lar pastes are avail­able. Wong says that she uses the Par­rot brand spice paste sourced from Kuch­ing.

To rus­tle up the gravy, chicken bones and prawn shells are first boiled to make a stock, and the in­dis­pens­able laksa paste is added and sim­mered for a few hours. The gravy is then sieved and flavoured with co­conut milk and salt. Wong’s laksa com­prises rice ver­mi­celli bathed in a bal­anced spicy co­conut gravy, and topped with prawns, sliced chicken, shred­ded omelette, beansprouts and co­rian­der. Its unique taste can be fur­ther en­hanced with lime and sam­bal bela­can on the side.

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