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Whenever you are in either Malaysia or Singapore, this dish is a staple in both countries. Any coffee shop you happen to come across while visiting, there is bound to be a stall that sells Laksa. The starting price in Malaysia for a dish is RM$5 ($1.80 CAD) whilst in Singapore is $5.50 SGD ($5.35 CAD). Just be sure to sit near as fan or where there is a breeze because of the humidity and heat of both countries and the spicy nature of the dish, you are bound to work up a sweat enjoying the dish.
Differences in Broth and Noodles Used
East Malaysia uses shrimp paste, also commonly known as locally belacan, as the base of the broth whilst Singapore and West Malaysia's broth are curry based. In both instances, there is coconut milk mixed in to give the broth a bit of sweetness. The addition of belacan to the East Malaysian version provides the palate a sharp yet subtle seafood taste. It has to be said belacan is not for everyone, it's a bit of an acquired taste as the shrimpie taste can be quite strong for some.
The noodles are quite varied from East Malaysia to West Malaysia and Singapore. On the island of Borneo where East Malaysia is located, the dish uses vermicelli whilst on Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, they use a combination of yellow egg noodles and vermicelli. The vermicelli provides a slight crunch to the dish while the yellow egg noodles have a soft texture. As a result, the dish served in the west has a more full bodied texture while the east has a richer broth.
The toppings in both variations are quite similar; sliced egg, bean sprouts, shredded chicken and tofu puff. There is usually half a calamansi for patrons to squeeze into the dish. The acidity of the calamansi enhances the flavour profile and elevates all the elements to another level. Some hawkers (food kiosks) also offer specialty laksa dishes such as sotong (squid) laksa, or large white prawn laksa. Depending on what fancies you, I highly recommend starting with the basics first as some people may find the sotong and large prawn too heavy.