What’s different about laksa in Malaysia’s Northern state? We dug into this dish at two stalls in Kulim to see (and taste) what the fuss is about.
Kulim is a district in the Northern state of Kedah, Malaysia. Sleepy and serene, this isn’t a place people would naturally think of going to for a holiday. Sure, there are recreational parks and resorts, but the Hi-tech park, which is its most prominent landmark, primarily attracts industrial workers. Visitors might be tempted to go on a food hunt at most. With limited access via public transportation, driving is the most convenient option, taking roughly 5 hours on the expressway from Kuala Lumpur.
There wasn’t enough time to see much of Kulim given my tight schedule, but what kind of Malaysian would I be if I didn’t try at least one of its local delicacies?
Laksa is a noodle dish served in a grainy, spicy soup. There isn’t a definitive version of laksa as each region has its own variation. In Kuala Lumpur, it tastes closer to a rich curry while Penang’s version possesses the sourness of tamarind. Sarawak laksa is a combination of both.
And we were about to find out what Kedah laksa tastes like.
First Stop: Laksa Kelang Lama (老火较叻沙)
Hidden in the labyrinth of a residential area is Laksa Kelang Lama (老火较叻沙), a popular laksa stall flocked by netizens and wandering food lovers. I suggest letting your GPS guide you there as it isn’t easy to find. While it is close to SJK(C) Kelang Lama, you have to take a few turns to get here.
Imagine our delight when we saw the price list for the bestsellers (and only items on the menu). The laksa costs RM3.50 for a small bowl and RM4.00 for a large one. The ice kacang costs RM2.30, or RM2.60 if you add milk. The drinks are only RM1.00 each.
That’s practically half of what we would pay in KL!
And what about the infamous dish? It reminds me of a toned down version of Penang laksa – thick and springy noodles, no pineapple, finely blended fish and a less spicy and sour soup. For a bit of sweetness, you can squeeze in some prawn paste.
Everyone swears by eating this laksa with a prawn cracker, and they are right. At RM0.30 per piece, the prawn cracker adds a nice, savoury crunch, tasting all the better when slightly softened in the soup.
The verdict? I think that the recipe might be more of an adaptation of a conventional Kedah laksa, but it’s delicious.
Laksa Kelang Lama (老火较叻沙)
Address: No. 1, Jalan Kelang Lama, Taman Kejora, 09000, Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia
Opening hours: 11.00am to 6.30pm (closed on Wednesday)
Second Stop: Laksa Kelang Lama (Warisan Pak Talib)
On the way back to the hotel, we stumbled on this roadside stall and decided to give it a try. Since it is also within the same area, the stall shares the same name, only this is located behind a hawker centre called Kelang Lama Food Corner (老大较美味饮食中心).
They have laksa biasa (plain), laksa telur (with egg) and laksa campur (with egg and cuttlefish). We ordered the laksa campur, which came up to a mere RM3.50! To this day, I’m amazed by how cheap it is.
We sat at the roadside stall but you can ask them them bring it over to the hawker centre if you want.
This is perhaps a more conventional Kedah laksa. It is served in a shallow bowl and garnished with half-boiled egg, lime and slices of cili padi (bird’s eye chilli).
One thing is very clear from the first bite: it really has a kick, even though we asked for less cili padi. Turns out the cuttlefish is also fiery. As good as it tasted, my mouth was on fire, especially when there was no way to avoid the burn towards the end.
Thank goodness for RM1.00 drinks.
Laksa Kelang Lama (Warisan Pak Talib)
Address: 1, Jalan Kelang Lama, Taman Manggis, 09000 Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia
If only there was time for more! But we’ll save that for another time. Maybe. Where else have I missed? Let me know!
Read about Sarawak laksa in 8 food to eat in Sarawak, Malaysia (and the stories behind them)