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ASAM laksa or Penang Laksa is a popular street food that can be easily found in every nook and corner of Penang Island.

It is so popular that this spicy laksa, which comes with vermicelli and soup, or gravy made from simmered shredded kembung fish or Indian mackerel, has made its way to the Klang Valley.

What makes people go gaga over this meal is the use of daun kesum (Vietnam mint) and bunga kantan (torch ginger) which enhances the aroma of its gravy that is accompanied by finely sliced fresh raw onion, pineapple, cucumber, red chilli and lettuce.

Of course the laksa would not be authentic without the thick sweet black “hae ko” or shrimp paste.

The laksa is so well-known that even CNN Travel has listed it as the seventh out of the 50 most delicious food in the world.

The Star People’s Food Awards, which is hosted by MOB, The Star’s citizen journalism website, at www.mob.com.my, will feature asam laksa in its October contest.

Foodies can nominate the best asam laksa found in the Klang Valley from today to Oct 10 while voting will begin from Oct 15 to midnight of the last day of the month.

Those who nominate, vote or successfully share a link, stand to win attractive prizes such as hotel stays and dining vouchers at top-rated establishments.

The nominated eateries will be judged via public votes and the winner will receive a certificate from The Star.

One such stall that can be found in the Klang Valley is Laksa Penang Rahim.

The Laksa Penang Rahim found in Medan Selera Jaya 223 has been in the business since 1986.

The Laksa Penang Rahim found in Medan Selera Jaya 223 has been in the business since 1986.

It is hidden among the varied stalls within the den of Medan Selera Jaya 223. It has been in the business since 1986.

What is interesting about the laksa in this stall is its textured sardine-based broth.

“It is my mother’s recipe from Butterworth, Penang which she brought down with her when she moved to Kuala Lumpur after she got married in 1986,” said stall proprietor Noor Jannah Rahim.

“Though she has stopped making it, she still comes by from time to time to monitor how the broth is prepared.”

Stall proprietor Noor Jannah Rahim ladling soup for a takeaway order.

Stall proprietor Noor Jannah Rahim ladling soup for a takeaway order.

The broth is cooked in an earthen pot to bring out the diverse flavours and served on a flat glass bowl. The laksa is garnished with raw onion, shredded cucumber and a spoonful of sweet shrimp paste (petis udang). However, there is an absence of mint leaves and pineapples that left my palate craving the acidity from the fruit.

While the dish strikes a good balance between the slight heat and its tanginess with the underlying fish essence, requests by customers have led Noor to include birds-eye chilli (cili padi) and a slice of lime. The laksa is price at RM5.

This stall is popular on the weekends and Thursdays, caters mainly for the late night crowd. Business hours are from 5pm to 4am daily.

Another stall is located inside the O&S Restaurant at Taman Paramount.

Penang Laksa stall owner Ooi preparing orders for customers.

Penang Laksa stall owner Ooi preparing orders for customers.

The business has been operated by Ooi Ah Lek and his wife for the last 25 years.

The authentically Penang Assam Laksa recipe originated from Tanjung Tokong but Ooi has tweaked it slightly to suit KL-ites palate.

“I had learnt the recipe from my aunt and it usually takes about two hours to boil the soup to bring out the taste and scent,” said Ooi.

At times, flakes of fish are preferred over chunks, as it absorbs the essence of the soup.

Penang Assam Laksa in O & S Restaurant coffee shop at Paramount Garden has been around for at least 25 years.

Penang Assam Laksa in O & S Restaurant coffee shop at Paramount Garden has been around for at least 25 years.

However ,one cannot overlook the feature that stands out most about this particular recipe, namely the generous portion of mackarel fish that deliciously tops off the dish.

Combined with the thick springy, slippery ‘lai fun’ noodle, typically made from tapioca starch and rice flour, the fragrant translucent broth garnished with mint, strips of pineapple and cucumber is simply mouth-watering.

A small bowl cost RM5.50 while an additional 50 sens gets a bigger serving, The stall, located at 39, Jalan 20/14, Taman Paramount is open from 7.30am to 3pm.

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