Heritage on a Plate

The Great Laksa Shootout Part 3

Food Tour, Malaysian Food, Penang FoodDanny MahesComment

We're here with Part 3 of our Laksa Shootout Series! When we started this series, we wanted to document (and eat) as many different kinds of laksas in Penang as we could. We've even had a really great time along the way! This time we're bringing you a couple of laksas that are off the beaten track but definitely worth a try.

Asam Laksa at the Ren I Tang Bistro

Full disclosure: we hang out at the Ren a lot. We start our food hops from here. The beer is cheap and the coffee is pretty good, the place is gorgeous and the staff really nice. None of that affected our steely resolve to have their laksa and bring you the most honest description possible.

This is probably the costliest laksa we've ever had, coming it at about RM16 (about USD4). That and the fact that it's being served out of a hotel bistro made us initially skeptical. We like their bangers and mash, and enjoy a lot of the fusion dishes coming out of this kitchen. But laksa?

Honestly though, this is some damn fine laksa. Many local vendors are feeling the pressure to keep prices low, even as costs go up. The result is a compromise on ingredients. But Ren doesn't have that problem. The coconut milk is rich and creamy, the sprinklings of bunga kantan and mint liberal and the satisfaction palpable.

 Rich and creamy, with a tangy but satisfying coconut taste, the Ren I Tang Asam Laksa comes with all the bells and whistles. It has the subtle bite of the grated bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) and the beautiful fragrance of mint and herbs. It's probably closer to a southern Laksa because of its strong coconut taste, but it's still one of our favourites in Penang.

Rich and creamy, with a tangy but satisfying coconut taste, the Ren I Tang Asam Laksa comes with all the bells and whistles. It has the subtle bite of the grated bunga kantan (torch ginger flower) and the beautiful fragrance of mint and herbs. It's probably closer to a southern Laksa because of its strong coconut taste, but it's still one of our favourites in Penang.

Asam Laksa and Fishball at D'Laksa, Queensbay

This one is going to be a bit of a controversial entry. The D'Laksa stall is at the basement level of Aeon, Queensbay Mall. We actually discovered the place via instagram. People seem to like it! It's popular on social media! What could possibly go wrong!?

It's not much of a looker, that's for sure. Like most of the mall food, it's served in large paper cups/bowls. The staff squirt the broth and sauces out of hanging dispensaries. You're not going to get the neighborhood gossip from the owner while you wait. Overall, it feels very constructed. This is laksa that's coming out the end of a production line. That being said, it's actually pretty decent laksa.

 The D'Laksa asam laksa is going to be a "love it or hate it" kind of thing. In our opinion, it's probably one of the more accessible forms of the dish for travelers and curious first-timers. The pungent shrimp flavor takes a backseat to large pieces of mackerel and a strong sweetness. It's easy to order and quick to serve, but laksa geeks and fans might find it a bit lacking in complexity and depth.

The D'Laksa asam laksa is going to be a "love it or hate it" kind of thing. In our opinion, it's probably one of the more accessible forms of the dish for travelers and curious first-timers. The pungent shrimp flavor takes a backseat to large pieces of mackerel and a strong sweetness. It's easy to order and quick to serve, but laksa geeks and fans might find it a bit lacking in complexity and depth.

What's your favourite laksa?

We really like contrasts here at HOP. You'll notice that both our laksa entries today are poles apart. One is served out of a bistro in painted bowls and the other comes to you in a recyclable paper cup, served at the local mall. We've always appreciated the diversity of food here and how accessible it can be to people from all walks of life.

There isn't necessarily a perfect laksa or a best laksa. Just one that really hits the spot for you, right now. And that's OK.

Have you had a laksa you've really loved? Let us know in the comments. Read Part 2 of the Laksa Shootout here.