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One of my favourite foods is laksa. In Australia it's often served in Thai restaurants or noodle bars, but apparently it's actually from Singapore and Malaysia.

So now I'm in KL and I want to indulge in laksa. But I'm staying in Chinatown and so far only found laksa in one place. I want to try a good variety rather so need to find some more.

I don't want a recommendation for your favourite laksa place, I want to know generally how to find places that serve it. Also I like cheap unpretentious places - streetside, plastic tables etc are all fine.

So is there an area of KL with lots of Malay restaurants or places that specialize in laksa? Or is there some food chain with laksa and branches everywhere? Or should I try shopping mall food courts? Or is it so ubiquitous that they don't usually bother writing "laksa" on a sign since locals know all Malaysian food places will have it?

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This article maybe helpful xcelhotelrajachulan.com/2013/01/… –  Simon Aug 3 '13 at 14:16
    
@Simon: That article contains some handy tips, like that laksa refers to a certain kind of noode rather than the dish as a whole as in English. So I can keep an eye out for "curry noodles" and "curry mee" now. I walked many hours today and settled for Indian and Chinese meals, so laksa is definitely not easy to find for a naive westerner (-: –  hippietrail Aug 3 '13 at 16:07
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I hope it helps, I think its names specific places in KL. Also don't forget to try Beef Rendang & Roti Canai, these are other popular Malay dishes that I have tried. –  Simon Aug 3 '13 at 16:46
    
Curry mee is not the same dish as laksa: mee are yellow egg noodles, whereas laksa is specifically rice noodles (usually anyway!), and the soup is basically diluted chicken curry missing the essential kick of laksa leaf. –  jpatokal Aug 5 '13 at 6:04
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Laksa noodles = white, cylindrical, roughly spaghetti-sized rice noodles. Laksa leaf (daun laksa) = the herb Persicaria odorata, known as laksa leaf in Malaysia/Singapore because that's pretty much the only dish it's used in. (In Vietnam, though, it's everywhere.) –  jpatokal Aug 5 '13 at 13:02
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2 Answers

As you've already found out, laksa is not a single dish, but a constellation of them -- there's something like a dozen major varieties in Malaysia alone, plus those in Singapore, Indonesia, etc. Wikipedia has a pretty exhaustive rundown. Somewhat oddly, Kuala Lumpur does not have its own variety, which explains why you're not seeing laksa joints around every corner the way you would in eg. Singapore.

Australian laksa is usually closest to laksa lemak, a curry-based laksa with coconut milk (lemak in this case means coconut cream), which is mostly associated with Singapore. Katong laksa, after the Singapore district of Katong, is particularly well-known:

enter image description here (courtesy me!)

Note the sparse toppings compared to the Aussie style of chucking in anything and everything: a real Katong laksa has only a few slices of fish cake and some raw cockles (shudder) or prawns (my preference!).

The other major style is assam laksa (lit. sour laksa or tamarind laksa), which uses sour tamarind paste instead of coconut milk plus stirs in ground fish. It tastes very different, and is often very spicy, but it's also quite addictive when you get used to it. It's a specialty of Penang.

enter image description here (courtesy MichaelJLowe / Wikipedia)

And then you've got Sarawak laksa, a crazy blend of the two; Johor laksa made with Italian spaghetti (I kid you not!), Kelantam laksam (not a typo), which has wide fettucini-style rice noodles in a mild coconutty stew instead of a soup, Betawi laksa with bits of intestines floating about (don't worry, you won't find this outside Jakarta), etc etc.

One good place to try these all is the Laksa Shack chain, which has outlets in many of Kuala Lumpur's malls, including the food court at KLCC (below Petronas Towers). Their website is useless, but all they do is laksa in a dozen or so varieties. Compared to Jalan Alor, there's not much in the way of ambience, but the food's pretty cheap and authentic (around RM10 a bowl, IIRC) and air-con comes in handy if you tackle their assam laksa! The Kelantanese sit-down restaurant on the top floor of KLCC also does a pretty mean laksam.

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My local friend was talking about Laksa Shack but after scouting many restaurants which were not open we ended up at Old Town Coffee which despite its name had a fantastic Assam laksa. –  hippietrail Aug 5 '13 at 6:14
    
I went into various random older malls with restaurants in them in the "shopping district" and found no Laksa Shack so far... –  hippietrail Aug 5 '13 at 11:23
    
@hippietrail According to laksashack.com they are coming soon. –  Simon Aug 5 '13 at 13:23
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@hippietrail Madras Lane may be worth a shout timeoutkl.com/food/reviews/Asam-Laksa-Stall –  Simon Aug 5 '13 at 13:43
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@hippietrail Also a similar question was asked answers.worldnomads.com/questions/malaysia/3036/… This may also help simplycheapfood.blogspot.co.uk/2009/09/penang-laksa-at-kl.html –  Simon Aug 5 '13 at 13:59
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Try Jalan Alor, it's a traditional street with lots of food stalls where you can find different kinds of cheap authentic Malaysian and Chinese food, Laksa will be among them and you will get to see the picture menus before ordering. You will definitely go there few times to try all different kinds of food. Enjoy!

Check Wonderful Malaysia for more information and pictures.

jalan alor 1

jalan alor 2

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I walked to Jalan Alor today. Only a couple of places were open before 5.30 and still less than half by the time I left. One end of the road was mostly Thai places and the other mostly Chinese. Only two had signs saying "laksa" and when I asked for it at one they didn't have it. I asked at one with no sign and they said yet but actually served my "curry mee" which I'm glad I also tried, but it wasn't laksa. –  hippietrail Aug 5 '13 at 11:20
    
@hippietrail I asked a Malaysian friend, she told me Chinese places sells laksa. –  user1712 Aug 5 '13 at 11:29
    
Yes it was Chinese places I tried today that I just described in the previous comment. –  hippietrail Aug 5 '13 at 11:43
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