BROTHALL-TIME FAVOURITE: Penang laksa puts Malaysia on the world map as one of the seventh must-try dishes when visiting the island, according to CNNGo.com’s 50 Most Delicious Foods
GEORGE TOWN: PENANG island is dear to my heart, as I have always spent my school holidays there. Usually, after much pestering from my sister and me, my father would take us to Penang to visit our relatives.
Despite frequent trips to Penang, I have not tried many of Penang's famous dishes, especially the Penang Laksa.
My Penangite husband Sivarajan has often boasted that Air Itam's laksa, a hot tangy noodle soup, is a dish not to be missed.
"You would be missing out on a great dish. Try one bowl and you will want more. It's a waste coming all the way to Air Itam and not trying it!" he said. Being a typical salesman all his life, he sold the idea to me, hands down.
By lunch we arrived at Jalan Pasar in Air Itam. It was scorching, but thankfully it was a short walk to the stall. As we were walking, I noticed the majestic Kek Lok Si Temple towering over the hill in front of us.
The laksa stall was situated by the side of the Air Itam market.
There was already a steady flow of patrons when we arrived. Glancing at some of them, I could see they were enjoying the laksa. We ordered two bowls of laksa and sugarcane drinks.
The sugarcane drinks came first. It was naturally sweet and immediately quenched our thirst. The bowls of laksa also arrived soon after. Talk about superfast service!
I couldn't help taking a whiff of the laksa. The tangy noodle broth was murky and thick. It tasted sour, spicy and slightly sweet, all at once. The gravy seemed to be infused with flakes of mackerel, fresh shallots, garlic and a large variety of chilli, which complemented the noodles.
It was truly a palatable pleasure for me. It is therefore not surprising that Penang laksa has put Malaysia on the world map by being ranked as one of the must-try dishes by CNNGo.com in its World's 50 Most Delicious Foods.
I asked Ang Kok Peoh, who is also the proprietor, about the stall.
"I took over from my brother, Kak Seong. I have been running this stall for the past 60 years," he said proudly. He currently has three stall helpers assisting him in his daily preparation and running of the stall.
Even after 60 years of serving laksa, he still works passionately. The enthusiasm for the perfect dish is apparent when you watch him prepare the laksa.
The stall operates from 11.15am to 7.30pm daily, except on Wednesdays, which is their rest day.
Each bowl of asam laksa costs RM3.50. The taste of laksa at this stall is simply priceless!
For those who do not wish to travel far, Kok Peoh's daughter, Kar Bee, also runs a laksa stall at Asia Cafe in SS15, Subang Jaya.
Tourists who visit the Kek Lok Si Temple often drop by the stall to try the laksa. To the local residents and those who have moved away, visiting this stall fills them with nostalgia.
There are many disputed versions of laksa's influences, thus making it unclear of its origin. From one region to the other, laksa has been modified to suit the residents' tastes.
Nevertheless, after savouring a bowl of Penang laksa at the Air Itam market, and the gratifying look on my husband's face, it was well worth our trip!