Thursday, February 22, 2018

Three Versions of Penang Assam Laksa

It was a strange week where meals on three consecutive days included Penang assam laksa commercially sold at the stalls. Assam laksa, Penang style or otherwise, isn't not my favorite thing, although I don’t mind it if it comes with ikan kembong or ikan pelata and low on the assam and hae ko (prawn paste).

Do you recall the assam laksa that the old GRUB Noodle Bar had? I loved that very much. It was a less pungent and rather elegant version. I haven't been able to find it replicated anywhere else since. Don't bother comparing with those cooked in home kitchens. Those are obviously the best, and possibly the most pungent. While I can recognize its fabulousity, there's a likelihood that I don't take to it because it's 'authentic'. Heh, preferences.

Bowl Number 1 at Centrepoint Mall.

Bowl Number 1

It began with a bowl at the little food court of Centrepoint mall. They branded the food court as ‘Let’s Eat!’. It’s in the area of the underpass to Orchard Central, across from Toastbox. There isn’t a stall name, beyond a sign stating ‘Penang Assam Laksa’ and ‘Penang Prawn Mee’. I didn’t know about it till the friends mentioned it, and said other friends told them about this stall.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the broth, in spite of the sardines used. Piquant enough. Those noodles were good! Even added half an egg to it. For S$5, the bowl was tiny, with even tinier bits of sardines, but it was an oddly delicious bowl for what seems to be a cookie-cutter stall in a foodcourt.

Bowl Number 2

Then I had a muddling vegetarian bowl from a shop in Fortune Center. It wasn’t horrible; it was sort of edible, but the cook didn’t know how to flavor it beyond using chilli and pineapples. The galangal and bunga kantan were missing. There were little onions and almost zero assam. The flavors were flat. The thick beehoon was probably the best part of it. It was extremely forgettable.

It must be very tough to create a vegetarian version of assam laksa. There's something about the fish that vegetables can't replace. Even if I could thicken the gravy, the insufficient flavors tend to make it taste one-dimensional. Didn’t know what I was thinking when I ordered it.

Bowl Number 2 at Fortune Center.

Bowl Number 3

Finally ordered the assam laksa from Jason Penang Cuisine (檳城小吃, #01-113) at ABC Brickworks Food Center. The stall has been around like... almost a decade and I never eaten there till this year. I didn't have the capacity to try its Penang char kway teow, which is said to be good. Next time. I'm picky about that too. It's not easy to re-create it.

Sardines were used in this bowl instead of mackerel. The gravy was pretty legit. Tangy and full flavored. The assam was leaned towards the sour side. They put very little of the hae ko (prawn paste), which is fine for me, but others might want to pile it on.

Bowl Number 3 at ABC Brickworks Food Center.

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