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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Johor Laksa

I think this is the least known Laksa in Malaysia. Even my Malay colleagues have never heard of it. Well, They know laksae, laksam, laksa utara…
Sarawak laksa , Nyonya Laksa and Assam Laksa is more popular with the Chinese, but hey, Johor Laksa is a Malay Laksa.

Johor laksa is spaghetti served with a thick spicy fish gravy, topped with fresh vegetables. The gravy is a marriage between Laksam and Curry. The condiments is almost Laksam like, except for the preserved radish. When u finish eating the laksa (spaghetti), the gravy will be gone too, just like eating spaghetti Bolognese.

Although this is Johor Laksa, but it is not found all over the state. I’ve been staying in Segamat which is located in north Johor for 2 years(2004,05), and it was not seen or even heard there. This laksa is only popular at the tip of the sweet potato, in Johor Bahru(JB). I stayed in JB for almost 1 year(2003), and during fasting month, I’d be scouring the food stalls looking for the best Johor Laksa. There are RM2 per portions, RM4 per portions, some even RM5. Why such a major difference in price??? It’s in the gravy. Once I bought the RM2 stuff, being adventurous, just wanted to know how different is the 50% off. I tell you, I regretted that I wasted the RM2. It’s so watery. Just like Malay’s penang laksa, but with curry powder and thinned coconut milk. It’s disgusting, I’d say. I’ve learnt my lesson and the next time, I’ll hunt down the most expensive one at the food market, and those never fail my tastebuds.

Actually, the best that I’ve ever eaten was at Giant Plentong, the stalls’s name is Cathay Laksa. Cathay laksa is the one that introduced me to this addictive noodles. I was working for a local bank, during my uni semester holidays (2000) doing credit card roadshows. I was taken to Giant Plentong for 14 days and I only learnt about this new laksa during week 2 and then on, I had to eat it everyday, until the last day of the roadshow.

If you want to give this a taste before making this, and is thinking of Laksa Shack. Forget about it. They served good laksa Johor years ago, but not now. It's so diluted and taste oh so... like the RM2 stuff I got back in JB. Don't even think of eating Laksa Johor there.

I found this recipe from a local Malay recipe portal, and usually, the local recipes do not provide accurate measurements, something like segenggam (fistful), secukupnya (as needed, how much is needed?), gelas(glass, err.. I think the glasses at my house is different than those at ur house), cawan kopi(coffee cups?? Esspresso? Cappucino??), mangkuk sederhana (how big is the medium mentioned??).. and many others. I wonder how can such recipes be followed. But this recipe, is quite accurate. Giving detailed measurements except for the salted fish. Well, I made this Johor laksa twice, twice using this same recipe, so this recipe really works, no first time wonders. I didn’t put in galangal this time around, cos I can’t get it. It was shriveled up everywhere I tried to find it. I don’t know when will the new stocks arrive, but duh, just skipped that, and it was still fine. I did some minor adjustments to the recipe and I guess I’ll follow this the next time I do it again.

Here goes the recipe. It's pretty long winded and it can serve 10-12 persons.

20 shallots, mine came to about 250gm, peeled
20 dried chillies, seeds removed
1 bulb garlic, mine was about 30gm, peeled
1 inch ginger, about 15gm

1. Blend everything into a paste with ½ cup cooking oil.
2. Cook the paste until very fragrant.(pic on right)
**No need to wash the blender after this. Continue to use the same blender unwashed until (D).

500gm Spanish Mackeral/tenggiri
1. Boil fish with 3 cups water until cooked. (pic on right)
2. Take the fish out (retain broth) and let it cool down. Remove bones.
3. Pulse with with another 2 cups water.

100gm dried shrimp
250gm dried salted fish- Threadfin/Tanau/Senangin
1. Soak dried shrimps.
2. Toast salted fish on a pan until fragrant. U can use charcoal to toast if u want. Remove flesh from skin.
3. Blend dried shrimps and salted fish flesh with 2.5 cups water.

5 stalk lemon grass (4 inch from base)
100gm freshly grated coconut
1. Toast coconut on a frying pan until fragrant and golden. (pic on right)
2. Slice lemon grass finely and place into the blender together with toasted coconut.
3. Blend with 1.5 cups water.

4 Tbsp tamarind paste
200ml thick coconut milk
2 heaped Tbsp fish curry powder (1 small pack of 50gm)
Salt to taste

Final assembly.
1. Put (A), (B), (C), (D), fish broth, tamarind paste, thick coconut milk, fish curry powder all into one pot with at least 5L capacity.
2. Bring a boil and let it simmer (lid on) for 30 minutes or until coconut oil is released. Season with salt. Turn off the heat and let the gravy sit , lid on.
3. Best made 12 hours ahead before serving

1. Calamansi lime
2. Bean Sprouts, ends trimmed
3. Long Beans, finely sliced
4. Chopped preserved radish, soaked for 30 minutes, squeezed dry, dry fry until hot and dry.
5. Basil (daun selasih) or Laksa leaves(daun kesum). Washed and remove from stems.
6. Cucumber, finely julienned without the seeds
7. Sambal Belacan, six fresh red chillies blended with a thumbsized belacan. Uncooked. You can control the spicyness with this.

To serve
1. Cook 1 packet(500g) of spaghetti according to packet’s instructions. (I used San Remo’s Vermicelli)
2. Divide spaghetti into 10 portions. Top with condiments.
3. Ladle over gravy. Squeeze juice of 1 calamansi over and toss everything.
Voila!!! Yum yum!!!

You can either do it condiments bottom and gravy on top or gravy below and condiments on top for better presentation, but the former is the actual way.


  1. Wah! So much to do for a dish! Kudos to you for taking the trouble to cook it and to share step by step. Thanks. It looks tempting to eat. Btw do you know where to eat this in JB?

  2. Judy,
    Ramadan/fasting month is coming and you'll see them all over the food market, but only buy those above RM4, and the gravy should look thick and inviting.

    If on normal days, head to Giant Plentong, on the way to Pasir Gudang. There's a stall "Cathay Laksa". That's where I had my first taste of this noodle.

    There's another Malay retaurant that serves this, but NOT on a daily basis, the restaurant is in Larkin, behind the police station, but I've forgotten the name of the restaurant.

  3. Thanks Wendy. I'll be going to JB in 2 weeks' time. Shall take note and give a try i.e. if I can find my way there.

  4. Never had anything like tempting and I totally intrigued!

  5. Judy,
    Oh, you're from Singapore. If you know where is Giant Hypermarket, on the way towards Pasir Gudang, then it should not be a problem.
    I don't know if Cathay Laksa is still there as it's been years since I went there.

  6. Angie,
    If you had this before I'll be totally intrigued!!!!
    If someone in Germany had this before, but not my Malaysian friends, I'll be totally speechless.

  7. OMG... wendy, can u send some to me ??? I had this before in one of my friend's house during Hari Raya and it was yummmmmm ....

  8. Yesterday, I was craving for laksa and today saw this drooling laksa here. Alamak! How can I resist this. :p

  9. Wendy, yes I roughly know where Giant is. Thanks for info.

  10. Oh wendy, this is the 1st time I heard about Johor laksa too, looks gd, hope I am able to try it when goin to JB :).

  11. I've never had this before, looks so yummy!

  12. Swee San,
    Haha, with gravy cannot send la, later spill in the truck, then how??

  13. Happy Flour,
    Haha, I think this will be very different from Spore's curry laksa.

  14. Jess,
    If you ever do shopping in Giant, try it there.

  15. Pigpigscorner,
    It is very yummy, in my opinion.

  16. Wor, this look super yummy, must try one day. Thanks for sharing the detail and steps.

  17. Hi, I enjoy reading your blog and think you're superb. You can make so many different types of food, envy you!

    Best Regards

  18. WA LAO! I don't have to eat this stuff at outside stall right? You make it so good!! Really admire your passion. I don't know when I will do this myself. But now I really hope can have a bowl this from you. :P

  19. wuaaaaaaaaaa.........and u know why haahah

  20. Kitchen Corner,
    I need a lot of mouths when I make this.
    So, it's not often that I can do this type of stuff at home.

    And with all the effort, halving the recipe seems wasted.... hahaha, I prefer making the full recipe.

  21. Manglish..
    Errr.. why ah?

    *act stupid, looking up at the ceiling *

  22. Sheila,
    Thanks for reading my blog, and enjoying it.
    I truly appreciate comments and feedbacks from my readers.

    Thank alot :)

  23. Eh,my comment didn't register again - maybe I forgot to enter the code.... I was saying this is really new to me. Looks like a cross between the Assam Laksa and the Nonya Laksa... Very mouth watering! I have to bookmark this but it I don't know when I will make this as it does look very very tedious... Must wait for some big party and prepare a big pot - otherwise not worth it to toil over it for 2 bowls...This is really amazing. Big applause.

  24. Gee, you always make food look so nice! I'm from Muar, Johor but I've never liked this laksa before. Maybe like you said they are stingy on the ingredients...yours look so different! Btw, what plump, fresh-looking tau-geh you have!

  25. look nice but i cannot eat :(

    doctor said i high closterol... try to eat less...this kind of food else

  26. Shirley,
    Actually it's just a bit tedious :)
    But you can spread out the work, the gravy can be prepared one day ahead and let it sit for the flavour to seep out and mellow.

  27. Hi, could we use this in our blog. Full credit to you of course.

  28. Johor Bahru Blog,
    May I know which part of the blog do you want to use?
    Please email me the details.
    My email is found in my "About".

  29. I've not heard of johor laksa, but your beautiful pictures make me drool. It looks really yummy!

  30. oooh... my favourite laksa, which i haven had in ages... hard to find authentic ones in KL... ehm... but i think i'll just buy la. Looks very complicated.
    My hats off to you Wendy. Wonder how you manage all these cooking & blogging, while taking care of 2 small girls...

  31. Anonymous,
    It's hard to find once you're out from JB, not even Johor.
    Haha, I have 2 wonderful girls that loves Barney, ahahah!!! And I don't cook everyday.
    I'll be crazy with daily cooking!!!

  32. Hi Wendy, I’m interesting some of your pictures. Can i have your email so that I can let you more details. Thank you.

  33. Soo Kelvin,
    My email is in my ABOUT. Thanks.

  34. Dear Wendy,

    pinjam gambar laksa ... nak serve kawan tak sehat ... online ... :)

  35. Looks delish! I tried the one at laksa shack years ago n you r right... Mmg best but no more (sigh..)
    I was craving laksa the entire week n just successfully made laksa Penang (minus the kesum) and it's funny how the recipes online hv very vague measurements!!! ������
    U should try it sometimes..

  36. Hi Wendy, Thank you so much for sharing the detailed recipe. I love Johor laksa and first time cooking it and my children and me are absolutely over the moon with the outcome. Will certainly cook again soon!


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