To answer this question, one will have to try the many variations of this spicy soup
The authenticity of a particular dish or recipe is often highlighted by the place of its origin. A dish that belongs to a specific place is seen in a particular light and reflects the flavours of that culture too. Did you know that the Laksa has traversed boundaries to attain its present form? Popular across Southeast Asia, this spicy noodle soup has adapted to the tastes of four major countries in the region, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore.
Laksa is a spicy noodle-based soup with protein like meat and seafood. However, this hot and fiery soup wasn’t always the same. The origins of the broth-based soup can be traced back to the 15th Century Chinese traders who moved across the Southeast Asian region via the Silk route. The intermingling of cultures and precisely, the marriage of these Chinese settlers with the locals in Malaysia and Indonesia were responsible for creation of a fiery bowl of Laksa.
The inter-cultural unions between Chinese and locals resulted in creation of diverse communities such as the Peranakan community of Malaysia and the Kiau Seng community of Indonesia respectively. The port cities like Singapore and Penang in Malaysia were the major hubs of the spice route. For instance, in Indonesia, the marriage between the two cuisines was a consequence of the union between Chinese traders and the locals. The wives of these settlers would then add a variety of spices available in the region to make a delicious concoction. In Indonesia, it would be coconut milk and chilli peppers.
That’s how each country devised their own method of spicing up the otherwise bland Chinese noodle soup. Gradually, the Peranakans moved down to Singapore from Malaysia and their interactions with the local Singaporeans resulted in exchange of recipes and festive foods to give birth to the Singaporean version of Laksa. Little did one know that this delicious preparation also has a certain Indian influence on it.
Derived from the Sanskrit word laksa, which means one hundred thousand, the name is used to refer to the culmination of various ingredients that go into its making as well as its adaptability to suit different cultures. Bridging differences between cultures for ages, we wonder what would have happened had the Chinese traders not brought their noodle soup to Southeast Asia, only to be manipulated and made their own.