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Laksa in Western Canada

Has anyone been able to find a laksa anywhere in Western Canada that is close to the laksa you can get in Sydney, Australia? I lived in Australia for a little bit and got addicted to the seafood laksa in the little asian food courts in Sydney (the ones with all the photos that you can order by number). I have never been to Singapore or Malaysia so I have no idea if the stuff in Australia was "westernized" but all I can say is that it was damn good. Spicy, sweet, coconutty with fresh seafood, rice noodles at the bottom and a tasty topping *drool*.

I'm in Calgary and there's only one Malay place I know of (Tropika) and I've tried their laksa and it was disappointing. The closest I've had here was sadly out of a laksa packet mix from T&T supermarket that I prepared myself.

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  1. I quite enjoyed the laksa at Prima Taste in Vancouver. The broth was very coconut-y and a wee spicy, with perfectly "al dente" rice noodles and healthy portions of chicken (I had the chicken laksa).

    Calgary is sorely lacking for Malay food. However, I recently tried the Thai Thom Yum soup at Spice Café, and while it is not the same thing as laksa, it is dang delicious.

    3 Replies
    1. re: aktivistin

      Where is this Spice Cafe? I've read older reviews about this place having laksa but I seem to be getting different address locations when I google it.

      1. re: slingshotz

        There is a Spice Café location on 11 Ave SW, between 5th and 6th Streets (south side of the street). There is also another location in Kensington, at the corner of Kensington Road and 10 St.

        1. re: aktivistin

          and another in the 5 West Condos (5th Ave b/t 8 and 9 St SW)

    2. In Vancouver: Prima Taste and Banana Leaf for higher-end places (I have reviewed both of these places on this board).

      Cafe D'Lite and Hawker's Delight for hawker-style service.

      I've had Laksa in Sydney (I can't remember the names of the restos as it was a few years ago now...) and I think these places will compare favourably.

      Laksa (since you mentioned the instant mix) is actually very easy to make from scratch yourself .

      1. surprisingly, I would recommend a place in New Westminster, BC, called Tamarind Hill. i work in new west, so if you are in burnaby or the burbs, its incredibly delicious and well-valued Malaysian cuisine. I get the Singapore Laksa at least twice a week for lunch.

        Its on 6th Avenue, across from royal City Centre, near 8th Street.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gelfball

          I have heard good things about this place - too far out of the way for me, though. kwailan4 has recommended Tamarind Hill for the Chicken Rice.

        2. Bumping this thread. I'm seeking the definitive Laksa in the GVA. I've had it at Prima Taste, Banana Leaf, Hawker's Delight, Cafe D'Lite, Tropika, Seri Malaysia, and a couple of other places over the years.

          I'm hoping a Singapore or Malaysian ex-pat could weigh in on authenticity (kwailan4 are you reading? ;) ) . I have a clear understanding on what will make this dish "authentic" having prepared it myself and having had it many times in situ in Singapore...but there's nothing like a native's stamp of approval.

          13 Replies
          1. re: fmed

            Well here I am :)

            When I first arrived, I cook laksa with my mom's sambal chilli which I brought from home. When that ran out, I ate mainly at Banana Leaf. Later, we found Ellie's. But ever since Prima Taste opened, it has been there. Partly because it is near where I work and partly because my daughter loves their pepper crab.

            So what do I look for? Dried shrimp and good coconut broth. Tofu puffs are bonus. I like the way they soak the broth and squirts when you bite into them.

            In Vancouver, some restaurants' Laksa taste like what we call curry noodle in Singapore, but most people can't tell the difference.

            Note that there are 2 kinds of laksa, Penang and Singapore. I am not too familiar with Penang Laksa, but I understand the broth is fish-based.

            1. re: kwailan4

              Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laksa

              >>So what do I look for? Dried shrimp and good coconut broth. Tofu puffs are bonus. I like the way they soak the broth and squirts when you bite into them.

              >>In Vancouver, some restaurants' Laksa taste like what we call curry noodle in Singapore, but most people can't tell the difference.

              So what is it different? Is it missing belachan or similar ingredient? I have had Laksa in Sydney Australia and that seems to be a common omission (it was lacking in the fermented seafood flavour note). An Aussie colleague tried the Laksa at Prima Taste and did not like it because it "tasted fishy". It could also be candlenut - I think some restos are using peanut butter or omitting it entirely.

              I like Prima Taste's Laksa, for the record, though the serving is a tad small ;)

              1. re: fmed

                Well, it's hard to be put into words.

                The base for Laksa is sambal belacan (dried shrimp) while the base for curry is curry paste and both are cooked with coconut. So yes, it could be fishy to some.

                For your quest, you may have to first decide what to take as base comparison :) For me, it is the Katong version.

                1. re: kwailan4

                  Katong Laksa was awesome. Which # was you favourite? I think i ate at 3 different stalls for lunch on the same day! :)

                  1. re: yen

                    This is the "cut up" Laksa right?

                    1. re: yen

                      Err ... There were only 2 stalls along Tanjong Katong during my time. I understand a lot of copycats emerged since then.

                      It is the stall right under the overhead pedestrian bridge. The broth looks like it has beaten eggs in it. And yes, fmed, no chopsticks needed.

                      On my last trip back (3 years ago), I was brought to a stall where they still cook the laksa over charcoal. S$2 per bowl. I had 2 bowls. I know how to get there, but I do not know where it is.

                      Back to what I look for in laksa. Laksa leaves!!! You can get them in the Vietnamese supermarket. It is known as something else though. I do not remember any restaurants using it here. For the price Prima Taste is charging, you would expect them to use fresh ones, but no, they use dried ones.

                      1. re: kwailan4

                        We are getting closer to the definitive Laksa.

                        Laksa Leaves = Vietnamese Mint http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietname...

                        I've seen it in pho garnish plates around town in the past (along with the thai basil, sawtooth herb, limes, bean sprouts)...it's getting rarer now though.

                        So here in Van, kwailan4, you mention Prima Taste and Ellie...anywhere else serves quasi-authentic Laksa that you personally like?

                        1. re: fmed

                          I'll probably add Banana Leaf to the list simply because that used to be my "default", but I have not been there for a while.

                          1. re: kwailan4

                            So far the only place I haven't been to is Ellie, then. Thanks kwailan4.

                        2. re: kwailan4

                          Really? There were probably 7 or 8 stalls when i was there last fall. Ah well, tasty times regardless.

                2. re: fmed

                  Update. Prima Taste and Orchid Delight are closed.

                  There was a notice on the door at Prima Taste saying they will re-open in mid-Jan. It was then changed to late Jan, and now, nothing. I called the restaurant and there was a message saying they are closed for good.

                  I guess it is back to Ellie's and Banana Leaf for now.

                  BTW, dinehere.ca listed a Cafe D'lite express in Aberdeen food court. Anybody tried it yet?

                  1. re: kwailan4

                    Too bad on on PT and OD...PT was a located in a pretty pricey location.

                    Interesting note on Cafe D'lite Express....I may have to head out there soon.

                3. I too cannot find good laksa in Alberta...except:
                  My mother in law makes awesome singaporean laksa from PrimaDeli packages. she boils shrimp and chicken, then reserves the stock for the laksa soup. I really like the sambal chilli that comes in the package - reminds me of Singapore.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Simsters

                    Has anyone tried laksa at the Singapore Baba restaurant in Edmonton? I've only been there once, about 8 years ago, so don't remember much about it.

                    1. re: Simsters

                      haven't found a good place in edmonton for laksa yet. right now the only one I know of that's still open is tropika. there's another place called matahari that has singapore laksa which I'm gonna try in a few hours here. I'll post after how it is.

                      1. re: Simsters

                        so I tried singapore laksa from matahari. tasted a bit like assam. I thought that tropika's was better. also tried their curry puffs. they were small.

                      2. there are several different kinds of laksa's. i have tried at least a dozen kinds of laksa. among them are singapore laksa, penang laksa, laksa lemak(rich), assam laksa(sour). this is due to the different communities in Malaysia and their heritage. The most common are the garden variety coconut based curry laksa sometimes served with a side of sambal belacan chilli sauteed with onions etc..etc. This is the ones u normally see in Canada and Australia. the use of condlenut and kari leaves will add character to the curry broth. i love tofu puffs in the curry laksa. the choice of noodles used make a different too. most will use rice vermicelli and egg noodles(cafe d'lite). Prima taste uses something similar to the chinese laifun which is more similar but not the same as traditional laksa lemak and the north-east malays laksa's.
                        IMHO, Prima Taste does a good job, but way too pricey. The Cafe D'lite's broth is a little light but the addition of the sambal on the side does add some punch and flavor. Hawker's Delight is hit or miss and not always consistent.
                        i think i will make laksa tonite with the Prima Taste DIY. will post report later.

                        1. I am a Penangite in Vancouver and my ex-colleague's family sells assam laksa at Gurney Drive. When I am back in Penang, I help myself in preparing my own bowl of laksa at the stall. hehe. Asam laksa is basically fish-based (tons of work to prepare) with asam; garnished with this particular mint leaves (I saw that it was sold at Kin's Farm Market), cucumber and I can't remember what's the name of the pinkish flower used too. You can buy a laksa mix from T&T and use sardine instead. I've tried it before when I first came to Canada and it worked. The best mix pack so far is from Penang-based Leong Hup Company. I see their mixes at most Asian stores nowadays. Next, is curry laksa which is coconut based with vermicelli or yellow noodles and garnished with puff tofu, bean sprouts. In Malaysia, we used "harm" or cockles, cooked pig or chicken blood (yum!!!) whereas the restaurants here just use chicken meat. Also, they don't use the special chilli paste for curry laksa here at all which totally kills the dish. I guess the coconut based soup makes up for it. In Vancouver, I find that Cafe D'lite has the best curry laksa. Ellie's second. I haven't tried Prima Taste but bear in mind that Prima Taste restaurant uses mixes sold by Prima Taste. So, you can buy Prima Taste mixes and make it at home. So much cheaper. BUT I found the best curry laksa paste is by A1 (a malaysian company). It's of the fresh kind (sealed etc) and it's the best and closest that I can find. Another kind of curry laksa is the Siam version. I haven't tasted that for a long time (the famous stall was at Lorong Selamat, Penang. Not sure if it's still there) so I have forgotten the taste.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: yogilo

                            Thanks for this feedback yogilo. I will have to give some of these pastes a try.

                            1. re: yogilo

                              For the curry laksa, what brand of coconut do you use? I think I have tried A1's (they do a pretty decent Bak Kut Teh too if I'm not wrong) with Aroy-D coconut and it's not rich enough. I had the same result when I cooked with my mom's homemade laksa sauce.

                              1. re: yogilo

                                Yogilo, I had a friend in Penang tell me the pink flowers were ginger flowers? Does that sound right?

                                1. re: bdachow

                                  I was told they were ginger flowers too, and a Penang cookbook I looked at recently said the same thing.

                                  1. re: anonymoose

                                    Right - pink flowers are ginger flowers and "Laksa Leaf" is Vietnamese Mint (rau ram) which is readily available at many Asian grocers (here in Vancouver, anyway).

                                    1. re: fmed

                                      Can you get the ginger flowers in Vancouver too? I might have to grab some the next time I'm out there.

                                      1. re: anonymoose

                                        I have seen it on occasion, but it isn't a prevalent as rau ram. I recall seeing it at T&T once and at a couple of Asian supermarkets in Richmond.

                                        I'll be on the lookout. BTW - you can try growing it yourself in summer - it will flower in about a month and half. Just stick a healthy ginger root into your garden). Ginger flower isn't from regular ginger though.

                                        PS...Richter's (a Canadian company) - has a great supply of Asian herb seeds: http://www.richters.com/

                                        I have purchase from them in the past (back when I used to have free time to grow an herb garden, that is. LOL)

                                        1. re: fmed

                                          BTW, found pre-packaged dried ginger flowers in Edmonton's Chinatown. The re-hydrated texture isn't great but there is still some flavour in them.

                              2. A couple of weeks ago I went to Ken's on Kingsway. Yes it is a HK style cafe however, they do make a few good malaysian dishes including the laksa. It was surprisingly good. Lots of flavours and not as creamy as Cafe D'lite but still taste the coconut in there. You can really taste the dried shrimp in the broth. I've never been to malaysia so I can't say it's authentic or not but iwas mighty tasty =)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: gourmet wife

                                  I've never tried the Malaysian food at Ken's thinking that they wouldn't do it justice, sounds like I jumped to conclusions.. Thanks for the rec...sounds tasty.

                                2. Wow this thread sure got large. I did manage to get out to Cafe D'lite a few months ago to try the Laksa and was disappointed. It was not creamy and tasty as I'd had it in Australia. It also lacked a bit of the spiciness. Tried the Hainanese chicken and it was pretty good but overall I found it more of a Chinese restaurant than Malay.

                                  Ken's sounds good, I might have to try it the next time I can visit Vancouver.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: slingshotz

                                    spice cafe has malaysian laksa now...
                                    the broth was delicious and just enough coconut milk too so tast wasn't diluted....
                                    i guess they kinda expanded their menu, since they have a new expanded section of the resturant added on to the side...looks really nice inside. oh this isn't the one on 11th ave but the one on 6th ave and 7th st. on the 2nd floor. They even have sambal seafood, someone from another table ordered it and my nose followed, haha...i'm going to have that next time.

                                  2. So the only place you can find laksa in Calgary is at Spice Cafe? Is it good there? Any other places for Malay food in Calgary?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. There's a place on Joyce by Wellington right next to the latin bakery (sorry can't remember the name) that now has laksa. Haven't been in but saw the signage outside. Not sure if anyone has tried it.

                                      19 Replies
                                      1. re: gourmet wife

                                        I have to check this out as I'm going in that direction today.

                                        I see 35 places listed as serving "Malaysian or Singaporean" on DineHere.ca in the Lower Mainland and I'm sure that most of them will serve Laksa. Some of the familiar places : Banana Leaf, Tropika (3 locations), Seri Malaysia (my favorite neighbourhood Malaysian), Hawker's Delight (my other favourite neighbourhood spot), Kam's, Chili Garden, Jonker Street, Kelong, Prataman...all serve Laksa (I have either had it or have seen it on the menu). Also - there is a Singapore/Malaysian stall at the Richmond Public Market.

                                        My current favourite Laksa is at Hawker's - great value (around $5-6 for a big bowl IIRC):

                                        1. re: fmed

                                          Walked by Hawkers' on Sat and they were closed for hols so be sure to call ahead if you get the craving :-).

                                          1. re: fmed

                                            It's been awhile since I've gone to the one at the Richmond Market. They had a change of owners a couple of times. The last time I went was okay, not great but it could be that they had just reopened with new management. I prefer the earlier owners.

                                            Story, I guess I stopped going due partly to taste and when I placed an order, the cook/chef was busy packing a huge catering order into the van. The wife, say oh I don't know how long the wait will be but don't worry, I'll just take some of the noodles from the catering order and she whipped it out of the party tray and sold me the food. To me it was the client's order and it wasn't fair that she sold me what was already paid for which isn't right.

                                            Speaking of Seri, it's up for sale so for those who are fans of there, you should go now before they change owners again.

                                            Wow this was a long post ! =)

                                            1. re: gourmet wife

                                              Seri has been up for sale for quite a while. Jamal (the chef/owner) has been trying to sell that location for at least a year. He says he wants to move it to a location with more exposure (eg Commercial Dr which would be great, IMO).

                                              Let's hope he finds a new place - otherwise, he says he will go back to Malaysia for a while.

                                          2. re: gourmet wife

                                            Amazing how nothing stays secret on CH ; ) This place is in my 'hood and isn't even 3 weeks old yet. Bo Laksa King's are run by a sweet couple from Singapore. Even better is the fact that it's inside a corner store--reminded me of the places you could in New Orleans. (The also sweet owner of the corner store is from Burma, and I'm dropping heavy hints that we need the Tea Leaf Salad in Vancouver. Looks like she sells the tea leaves too. I mentioned the Burmese places in SF, and she said that the Burmese resto owners probably know each other in N. America)

                                            The Laksa has a nice coconuty broth and can be ordered with egg noodles or vermicelli. While the photo shows there's a bit of crab, there was none to be had. You could find a shrimp though. The big bowl has a nice kick to it as well. You can ask for a sample of the broth($7.50)

                                            While you're there, you can also pick up some interesting and delicious wraps. Although the meat for the wraps seem to be microwaved (for the one I had), everything else is made fresh. You can get a Roti, Asian Beef, Asian Pork, or Veggie Wrap ($3.50-4.50) Very filling. There's a discount for two wraps or Laksa and wrap.

                                            If it's nice, you can sit outside on the patio-type tables and chairs, and maybe pick up some postres next door at the panaderia. Not a luxurious setting, but for someone who grew up and works in the area, it's a kick.

                                            Bo Laksa King's
                                            4910 Joyce St.
                                            Vancouver, BC
                                            (604) 339 0038

                                            Open 9am-9pm

                                            1. re: el_lobo_solo

                                              This is the find of the year so far el_lobo_solo. Excellent. Tea Leaf Salad here I come! (I'll be dropping heavy hints too).

                                              1. re: fmed

                                                Be still my heart -- just the possibility of tea leaf salad in Vancouver is setting it apatter. Maybe we should start a petition?

                                                ELS, you mentioned photos but I don't see any. What up?

                                                1. re: grayelf

                                                  I knew I should've said, "photo on the menu". Sorry. They have a simple take-out menu with photos of all the food, limited as it may be. BTW it's open 7 days a week, which I forgot to mention.

                                                  And I hear you grayelf about the heart going pitter-patter. I pass by this place everyday, and the day I saw some people eating outside and big photos of food in the window, my pace quickened and I was praying that there'd be some Burmese food because of the owner. Alas, no. But I'm pretty sure from the script on the tea leaf packages that they're from Burma. The huge portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi should also be sign of authenticity, and a kindred soul in the owner, which she definitely is.

                                              2. re: el_lobo_solo

                                                I went there for lunch today. They have a Laksa and Wrap special for $10. The Laksa was great - authentic tasting Singapore-style Laksa (creamy coconut with curry spice paste). Bo (the chef) makes his own spice paste from scratch. The Laksa was well appointed with mini tofu puffs, hardboiled egg, prawn, and veggies. You have a choice of rice vermicelli or yellow wheat noodles. The soup was flavourful and had a good amount of lingering heat. The soup and noodles/toppings were served in separate containers for convenience (you would pour the soup into the noodle/topping container then eat.)

                                                The wrap used flour tortilla as a compromise as hand made roti is time consuming and requires a lot of space - something they don't have a lot of. I would say that the wrap is a good value, but it isn't as authentic as the their Laksa offering.

                                                The place, as described by el_lobo_solo, is a counter in a corner store. They have limited facilities so can't cook many foods. A correction to el_lobo_solo's post - the couple running the counter is from Burma as well (not Singapore). Bo has cooked at other restuarants here in Vancouver prior to this venture.

                                                On the Burmese Tea Leaf Salad tangent...Bo and I talked about it in some detail. Apparently, the recent turn of political events in Burma has made it impossible to import the proper tea leaves into Canada (they used to sell it in this very store). They are trying other sources. He is very interested in serving this dish if he is able to source the tea. (He seemed a little surprised at the interest in this dish and in Burmese food in general). Cross your fingers.

                                                1. re: fmed

                                                  Glad you were able to add and clarify the earlier info. Also happy that you provided more details about the laksa, including the photos.

                                                  Since I pass by daily, maybe I can "hound" (groan) Bo every day until they have tea leaf salad. And with that bad pun, I'm off.

                                                  1. re: el_lobo_solo

                                                    More puns like that and we'll be asking "Will the wolf survive?"

                                                    Please do hound Bo at every opportunity. I will be his best customer if he can get a decent tea leaf salad going.

                                                    1. re: grayelf

                                                      Bo knows laksa! (sorry I just had to drop the bad 80s/90s reference)

                                                      I had the laksa/wrap combo today. Probably the only time in my life that I'll ever eat a "wrap". I got yellow noodles in my laksa and it was very rich and flavourful. Highly recommended for laksa-heads. The only thing holding me back from drinking all the leftover soup was the thought of how many calories I would be ingesting... Plus I was so full after the laksa I had to get my wrap to go. I'll be back here for sure. Thanks everyone for the recon.

                                                      1. re: flowbee

                                                        flowbee I haven't thought about Bo Jackson in years - and the Raiders either really! What was in your wrap?

                                                        1. re: ck1234

                                                          It was the "roti wrap"...strange name cuz it uses a flour tortilla, not roti. Inside is an Indian-style curry which contains carrots, peas, corn, potato and chicken. I took a little nibble. Seemed ok.

                                                          1. re: flowbee

                                                            Went back to Bo Laksa today. He actually has laksa leaf (aka rau ram in Vietnamese) now! He chops it and adds it to your soup. It really adds a nice spicy/herby kick to the whole affair. And this coming weekend, he'll be offering roti chanai!! Homemade, of course :) Can't wait to try it with his delicious curry broth!

                                                            1. re: flowbee

                                                              Woot! Bo - I know you are reading this. You rock.

                                                              1. re: fmed

                                                                Bo's mentioned having weekend specials. Looks like he's doing just that. Right on!

                                                                1. re: el_lobo_solo

                                                                  I went to Bo's Laksa King inside of Joyce Way Market conveniece store just a block north of the Joyce Skytrain. THE BEST laksa in Vancouver to date. I used to go to the Richmond Public Market, but after they switched owners, the recipe changed. I've previously tried the now gone Prima Taste, Azia, D'Lite in the Aberdeen Centre, Kam's, Banana Leaf, Jonker Street(now called Fresh Bowl & was lastly unable to get sambal).& have been disappointed.
                                                                  Bo, from Rangoon Myanmar(Burma) explained, the various laksas with the various spices & ingredients and delivered the noodles, tofu,prawns, herbs in 1 plastic bowl, told me to squeeze the lime before he added the curry coconut milk broth. Absolutely heaven. This was ordered with a flaky freshly-made roti canai. FINALLY, I've found a place to rival the 2 places I know in Sydney Australia- a stall in a food court at the end of Goulbourn in Chinatown & Laksa House in the north end of the base of the Queen Victoria Building. I WILL BE BACK!!!

                                                                  1. re: YVR flyboy

                                                                    We are big fans of Bo's here. This is a thread dedicated to BLK (and his Burmese specials):

                                            2. We ate at Spice Cafe, Plus 15 level - 800 - 6th Avenue SW. We had the laksa - not too bad - more of the watery-type curry base like the hawker stores in Singapore. The broth was medium spicy and the spice heat was just nice. Had great toppings like 2 prawns, some chicken slices, cilantro, bean sprouts, one hard-boiled egg sliced into 2 on top of yellow noodles and rice vermicelli. Only thing missing is the daun kesum (in Malay) or rau rum (in Vietnamese) or laksa leaves (in English). We actually brought our own daun kesum for the garnish! It did the trick!

                                              A little pricey for laksa noodles - $14.

                                              Be prepared for the long wait. Only one waitress and she runs the whole restaurant.

                                              1. There's a Malaysian restaurant in Yaletown in Vancouver called Jonker Street. It's small, maybe 6 tables. I went once a couple years ago when it first opened and thought it was pretty good. They are still around a few years later so I'm assuming they are doing something right. I've been to Singapore and KL a couple times since then so I should really go back and give the Laksa a shot. I'll let you know what I find out.