When you are in Penang or Ipoh, you’ve just got to fill your tummy with all the food that they are famous for. And, assam laksa is definitely the top dish on everyone’s list.
Sweet, sour and spicy – those are the three magical words used to describe a satisfying bowl of Assam Laksa. Packed with slurpy white rice noodles, shredded fish, sliced pineapples, cucumber, onions, red chillis, lettuce, and mint leaves, this tamarind-flavoured Malaysian soup dish is an all-time favourite.
Put on the loosest pants you have, because you pop by this coffeeshop along Geylang Lorong 17. They have been dishing out authentic assam laksa with yong tau foo since the beginning of this year.
For those of you who have been to Ipoh, you have probably tried Assam Laksa at Big Tree Foot (Dai Shu Geok). You can read my Ipoh Food Guide here. This place reminded me of Dai Shu Geok. But in a better environment. And best of all, they make their own Lai Fun (濑粉)!
Lai fun is a short and thick rice noodle that resembles silver needle noodles (or mee tai mak). I am honoured to meet the boss, Jimmy, who came from Ipoh. He showed us how he makes the lai fun from scratch.
“Back in my kampong in Ipoh, lai fun is a very popular local dish. When I left my hometown, I really miss it. I don’t think anyone is Singapore does this, so I decided to do it.”
He first has to mix rice flour, potato starch and water together before pinching the dough mixture into boiling water through a potato ricer. It sounds easy, but to make the noodles from scratch in the unbearable Singapore heat is truly a challenge. But the results are wonderful. The rice noodles have a slightly chewy texture, but are still soft. They are best served with Assam laksa, but even the dry version tastes delicious (for those who cannot take the heat).
“We have to make the lai fun from scratch. They contain no preservatives and can only last for 4-5 hours.”
The stall also makes their own yong tau foo to go with the noodles. Jimmy runs the whole coffeeshop, so at night he does zi char as well. Hence, he has a big kitchen where they are able to produce many items on their own.
“Our yong tau foo uses mackerel fish paste. The texture is more firm and tasty. Every morning, I will go to the market to buy mackerel to make into paste on our own. It is very tedious but we have no choice. If not, my food will be the same as everybody else and it is not special anymore.”
One of the special items which you must try is their fried jicama (炸沙葛). In Ipoh, every stall will have this traditional dish. It is a must-have. Jicama is what we call it as mang guang. They are wrapped with dried shrimps in beancurd roll and deep fried till golden brown. It’s so crunchy and the freshness of the jicama somehow helps to kill the oiliness. It makes a great yong tau foo snack!
You can pair the yong tau foo with Lai Fun. It can be cooked in three different ways – clear soup, dry version with minced meat, and Assam laksa. I love the Assam Laksa the most, thanks to the robust combo of shredded kampong fish, tamarind and chilli. The soup itself is distinctively sour with a right hint of spiciness! It is fiery, punchy and full of substance. Best of all, they even add a dollop of shrimp paste on top of the soup to enhance the flavour!
The Lai Fun soaks up the hearty fish soup. Dipping the yong tau foo into the broth made every bite refreshing and full of oomph — perfect for the hot weather. Are you drooling already?
If you are not a fan of spicy food, you can go for the kon loh meen, which is a simple plate of dry-noodles tossed with a mixture of dark and light soy, sesame oil and lard. For something lighter, pick the Lai Fun in clear broth.
I am so happy to find this hidden gem in Geylang. Hurry, get your Assam laksa and yong tau foo fix today!