How do you make the perfect Malaysian laksa?

First things first, what is laksa? For those that haven’t tried the spicy soupy goodness, it’s a noodle soup that combines coconut milk or sour asam, with prawns, chicken or tofu with plenty of spices. David Tjong of pop up Laksa Kitchen in Kentish Town (open until 18 December) used his Chinese and Malaysian family heritage, his experience in the restaurant business and his love of laksa to create a successful brand. He talks us through his adventures in Malaysia, trying endless laksa recipes in order to find the perfect laksa to bring home.

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Malay food is a bit heavier and more comforting, it’s not always associated with freshness. In Borneo we had these jungle ferns that were stir fried, they were amazing.

A proper laksa is all about the mix of ingredients because of the fusion of cultures. It’s a hybrid cuisine. You get the Chinese noodles mixed with the Malay herbs and the Indian pastes. It’s a mish-mash but recognisable at the same time.

What makes a good laksa is that depth of flavour. You need decent stock and for it not be overly sweet and it has to have a lot going on. It should be spicy and addictive so you want to keep drinking every last part of the soup.

Penang is pretty rustic, but I love it for that reason. You go there and the streets are crumbling but that’s where you find the real street food scene. There might be 50 traders all competing on one street.


One of the best laksas was in Borneo. I expected the food not to be anything special but it was incredible. It reminded me more of Vietnamese food. They’re close to the rainforest so they’ve lots of strange herbs and you can taste the freshness of them.