Want to test your cooking skills with a new recipe? Why not make it a traditional Sarawak laksa from Malaysia.

A bowl of Sarawak laksa as seen from directly above. The bowl is filled with a thick broth containing large noodles, strips of chickens and prawns.
Tangy, spicy, oh-so slurpable and lip-smackingly good: Sarawak laksa © ThamKC / Shutterstock

What is it?

Tangy, spicy, oh-so slurpable and lip-smackingly good, Sarawak laksa is a supremely satisfying way to begin the day. It’s the dish Sarawakians most often crave when they’re away from Borneo

Ingredients (serves 2)

8 cups water 
Laksa paste (available on Amazon as well as other retailers) 
8 prawns (shrimp) 
2–3 cups chicken stock 
½ cup coconut milk 
2–3 eggs 
butter, for frying 
2 handfuls of bee hoon noodles 
1 handful of beanshoots 
110g (4oz) shredded cooked chicken breast 
coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 lime

A close-up shot of Sarawak laksa in an orange bowl. The bowl is filled with a dark broth in which noodles, prawns and pieces of chicken are floating.
Sarawak laksa has a distinctive flavour that distinguishes it from the laksas of peninsular Malaysia © THAM KEE CHUAN / Getty Images

How to cook

Step 1: In a pan, bring the water to the boil then add the Sarawak laksa paste. Stir every few minutes for 30–45 minutes.
Step 2: In a separate pan, boil the prawns in the chicken stock until cooked, then remove and slice lengthwise.
Step 3: Add the chicken stock to the Sarawak laksa pan. Simmer over a low heat for a few minutes.
Step 4: Pour the liquid into a third pan through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any solid particles. Continue to simmer.
Step 5: Add coconut milk to taste. Stir the broth every few minutes.
Step 6: Beat the eggs, then fry in a little butter to produce a very thin omelette; slice into strips.
Step 7: Soak the bee hoon noodles in hot water until soft, then place in boiling water for 3 minutes. Transfer the noodles to two medium-sized bowls.
Step 8: Add the beanshoots, shredded chicken breast, halved prawns and omelette strips to the bowls.
Step 9: Ladle just enough broth into the bowls to cover the noodles.
Step 10: Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and squeeze the juice of half a lime into each bowl.

An aerial view of the city of Kuching in Sarawak, Borneo. The image shows the city's river winding away into the distance, passing large buildings and grand temples. In the distance, a mountain range is visible.
The taste of Sarawak laksa conjures images of the food halls of Kuching, Sarawak's capital city © Hashim mahrin / Shutterstock

Tasting notes

You’re in Kuching and it’s 7:30am, so following a tip you stroll to a cafe famous for its Sarawak laksa. Inside, men and women – mostly Chinese, but also Malay and Dayak – read newspapers or chat in a babel of dialects as they dig into oversize bowls with chopsticks and spoons. Inside each one, a tangle of vermicelli noodles, swimming in oil-flecked broth, is topped with crunchy beanshoots, orange-white shrimp, strips of omelette, chicken bits and vibrant coriander leaves. Occasionally, someone adds a dollop of fiery sambal belacan or a squeeze of calamansi lime. The air is redolent with the tang of chilli, galangal and lemongrass and the heady aromas of coriander and coconut milk.

Other recipes in this series:
Irish stew

For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s The World’s Best Bowl Foods.

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