In Malaysia and Singapore, laksa is a spicy coconut broth served with thick rice noodles in it or coconut milk-less, tangy and hot tamarind & mackerel broth served with springy & starchier noodles – Assam Laksa (my favourite).
Penang Assam Laksa
And the types of laksa are immense, in Malaysia, laksa is almost categorised by each state it originates from. For examples, Penang Assam Laksa, Sarawak Laksa, Johor Laksa and so on. Assam laksa is the more common ones in Malaysia, so when you mention laksa, it’s more likely assam (tamarind) type. The coconut milk base laksa is referred asCurry Laksa or Curry Mee in Ipoh, Penang and some other states I believe.
Different types also mean different ingredients for toppings, different flavours in broth (mainly fish based), different noodle types but essentially chillies, own spice mix concoction and daun kesum/laksa leaves are used which is why it’s called laksa.
Whereas in Singapore, Assam Laksa is rare. However, there is the normal laksa where the coconut milk enriched stock is very flavourful; the Katong laksa where evaporated milk is incorporated resulting in a smoother soup. Not to forget the Nyonya Laksa and Malay Laksa.
As I haven’t tried out all types of laksa in Malaysia, I am not sure if any of them is synonymous to Malay Laksa. In Singapore’s context, Malay Laksa (which was referred as Siglap Laksa?) is understated and left out in the limelight. I first tried it during Hari Raya where some of the Malay stalls at food court does Malay Laksa only during this celebration period.
To my surprise, it tastes rather different even though it is still laksa and made of almost the same ingredients (I think anyway). First of all, the stock is not as heavy as the normal Singaporean (Chinese) laksa, however, the full flavours are made up with rich coconut milk, more aromatic herbs like mints, laksa leaves and others that I don’t know of. And the noodles used are thick and springy (unlike the tougher thick rice vermicelli used in normal Chinese laksa). Condiments would be a beansprouts, big dollop of hot chilli paste and some freshly chopped herbs.
Malay/Siglap Laksa (just unloaded from the takeaway bag)
Overall, I think Malay Laksa is a league of its own, a different taste all together. And being a hardcore laksa fan, Malay Laksa comes the second after my all-time Top 1 Assam Laksa.