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The Best Assam Laksa in Penang

Home > Penang Island > Adventure | Dinner | Family | Lunch | Restaurants
by Cassandra TJL (subscribe)
Lived in Sydney for three years, now back in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!
Published February 7th 2015
Mouth-watering, nose-tingling goodness
Penang has been described as Malaysia's hawker heaven, and not many will dispute this claim. I know many people who drive up north just to satisfy their cravings.

The Assam Laksa, also known as the Penang Laksa, is on the top of the list of must-haves when on the island. It ranked #7 on CNN's 50 Best Foods in the World in 2011.

Isn't it mouth-watering?

I found this place through my dad who has been a patron since before I was even thought of... and fell in love with it, of course.

They have maintained their roadside stall. The only difference is that it is a little harder to access now that the road has been turned into a main one. Ayer Itam Laksa has been in the family for three generations, with the recipe being passed down from its founder to her son, who is now teaching the next generation to serve their famous dish at lightning speed.

The Laksa Master at work

Placed at the foot of the Kek Lok Si Temple, beside the Ayer Itam market, it is not a place that sees many tourists thanks to its appearance. Don't let its cover deceive you, though. I have found that many of the best restaurants have maintained their initial placing, making them a landmark in their own right. And this place has been there for 60 years now.

The Pasar Ayer Itam (Ayer Itam Market) is not shown but it is on the left of this picture

The secret of the Ayer Itam Laksa is slowly emerging as many visitors have taken to following the locals and dining at restaurants with the most people despite its outlook. There goes one of the Penang's well kept secrets.

At RM 4 a bowl, its a steal! I would say that it is definitely worth your money as well as your time spent traveling.

Even pending the onslaught of tourists, Ayer Itam Laksa is constantly packed. This is where the Malaysian culture of 'joining a table that has free spots' comes in - we're all there just for the food anyhow.

Speaking of food, their assam laksa is definitely one of the best that I have had. So, what is this dish that I have been raving about?

The best way to describe it would be 'thick springy white rice noodles drowning in a spicy sour fish soup'. And what a soup the chefs at the Ayer Itam Laksa make. They earn points for simply loading their dish with generous helpings of poached and shredded fish while the soup has just the right blend of tamarind and chilli, peppered with shredded mint, lettuce and cucumber.

What makes this laksa dish stand out is its prawn paste which gives the soup a hint of sweetness. In addition to that, the chef adds a dollop of the paste on top of the soup before serving it as well.

The smell of the thick broth filled my nose as the bowls were placed in front of us five minutes after ordering. It was all I could do to snap a couple of pictures before diving in. I needn't have worried as we ordered two more bowls to share once we'd cleaned our first helpings. Even then, my self-control was not enough to take a proper picture of the delicious springy white noodles. You'll just have to find out for yourself.
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Why? 'Cos food!
Phone: 6012 500 7063
Where: Ayer Itam, Penang, Malaysia
Cost: RM 4 per bowl
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