Singapore Adventure

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Penang Laksa
by venitha

We did not do justice to the phenomenal cuisine of Penang. Its food is its main attraction, and many Singaporeans go to Penang, a mere hour and twenty minutes away by plane, just to eat. And eat. And eat.

But the overall feeling of unhealth that has settled onto us here, a general lethargy born of too little activity, too hot weather, and too heavy food leaves fried noodles with little appeal. In Penang, the greasy air polluting the hawker centres, the meats sitting out exposed to the stifling heat, and the large rats skulking along the streets do little to stimulate our appetites.

So I can't say that we gave it much competition, but our hands-down best meal, the one we went back for a second time and would have loved to enjoy a third, was truly divine. Penang laksa.

A hot soup that harmoniously blends spicy and sour, Penang laksa contains chunks of crunchy cucumbers and pineapples, slivers of pungent red onions and shallots. Laksa noodles form its base, and tender, flaky mackerel and succulent shellfish give it substance.

Bright red chilies make it spicy, and dark brown tamarind juice makes it sour. Lemongrass and mint enrich it with a light and tangy zest, while ginger and turmeric fortify it with a unexpected hearty depth.

My taste buds positively tingle.

I leave some noodles, Jim leaves some chilis, and then we trade bowls and savor every last spoonful. Like the spicy and sour of the laksa, we complement each other perfectly.