Kuching Style Laksa Recipe by Anthony Bourdain

January 15, 2017 , Haiya

Hi, my name is Haiya and I am a Noodleholic. For the first ever Noodleholics Party- an initiative started by Soe Thein- I would like to pay homage to the culinary idol I’m a hopeless groupie for, and try out his recipe for Kuching Style Laksa that has been published in his newest cookbook.

I agree with Anthony Bourdain on many, many things. He says that in the heirarchy of steaming hot bowls of magical broths and noodles, laksa is at the absolute top- and boy oh boy, truer words have never been spoken. Laksa truly is what (my) good dreams are made of. I can slurp gallons of that spicy, luscious, thick, coconutty broth. There are many kinds of laksa, and while my favorite is the Curry Laksa that’s predominant in the Kuala Lampur area of Malaysia, I really wanted to try out Bourdain’s recipe for the Kuching Style.

Kuching literally means cat in Malay. Why is this dish called Kuching Style Laksa? I mean, what does that even mean? Catty Laksa? The laksa a cat would eat? I’ll never know. All I know is Bourdain likes it, so I must try it.

Brace yourselves folks, this is going to be a very long recipe, and you’ll need to make it in three parts:

  1. Dark Universal Stock
  2. Sarawak Laksa Paste
  3. The actual laksa.

For SEO optimization purposes and keeping this post from turning into a novel, I will only share steps 2 and 3, and let you use your favorite chicken or vegetable stock for step 1.

The only thing that makes me think twice before making Thai and Malay food more regularly, is the tedious process of mortar-and-pestling the galangal and lemongrass. I found myself in a similar predicament this time around as well, and just as I sighed heavily and reached for my molcajete (thinking that it will get the job done faster), my gaze landed on my juicer and the stroke of genius that followed has forever changed my life. I juiced the galangal and lemongrass, and saved myself at least an hour, plus a potentially two-day-long backache. 


It’s times like these that I wonder exactly which breakfast supplement of mine (I take around a dozen) it is that’s giving me these strokes of absolute genius at the best times possible. Let’s just ignore the fact that I did unfortunately break my juicer, and focus on the fact that I successfully juiced half a kilo of galangal. Lesson learnt: cut it into smaller pieces next time and try to throw away the woody bits.

In the final step of the recipe, I ended up straining the soup through a sieve anyway, and that’s when I realized that the chunky bits of galangal and lemongrass really should not have been a problem. Now I feel sad about breaking my juicer.


Enough banter, I’ll cut to the chase now and share the recipe with you. Let’s hope Anthony Bourdain never reads of the shameful shortcuts I took and swaps I made (which I’ll put in brackets).

Kuching Style Laksa Recipe by Anthony Bourdain (serves 4)

Kuching Style Laksa Recipe by Anthony Bourdain (serves 4)


    For the Sarawak Laksa Paste:
  • 10 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • 3/4 lb galangal, chopped
  • 10 fresh long red chilies, cut into chunks. You can make it less spicy by removing the seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried red chilies, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained
  • 5 stalks lemongrass -white parts only- coarsely chopped
  • 3.5 ounces macadamia nuts or cashews. (I had neither, so I just used almond powder)
  • 3/4 cup roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 3 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1/2 cup coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 6 pieces star anise, toasted and ground. (I didn't have this so I used cinnamon instead- big mistake)
  • 7 toasted and ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg (I didn't have this so I skipped it)
  • 10 cardamon pods
  • 2 cups soy bean oil
  • 5 tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar
  • 8 ounces tamarind pulp, mixed with 1 cup boiling water
  • For the Kuching Style Laksa:
  • 2 quarts Dark Universal Stock by Anthony Bourdain (I used chicken stock that I had in my fridge)
  • 1 large chicken breast, bone-in (I skipped this completely)
  • 3/4 cup Sarawak Laksa paste.
  • 16-20 jumbo shrimps, deveined, tails intact, shells reserved for stock
  • 22 large eggs
  • 1 tsp soy sauce (I used tamari instead)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces rice vermicelli
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk (I used like 2 cups instead because I LOVE coconut milk)
  • Around 2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish (I was all out, so I used mint instead. NOT the same, do not repeat at home)
  • Lime wedges for garnish
  • Sambal belcan paste, for ganrish to taste


    For the Sarawak Laksa Paste:
  1. Juice the galangal and lemongrass. The reason I don't put these directly into the processor and because I feel these never grind to a fine paste due to the nature of the fibers. However, a sieve can easily solve this problem.
  2. Put the shallots, garlic, galangal + lemongrass juice, fresh red chilies and dried chili peppers, nuts, seeds and spices into a food processor.
  3. Working in batches, grind the ingredients into a fine paste.
  4. Heat the oil in a wok or a wide, heavy-bottom braising pan over medium heat.
  5. Add all the ground up mixture into the oil and fry it for about an hour, frequently stirring it to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan or scorching.
  6. After about an hour of stirring and cooking, stir in the salt, sugar, and tamarind water and continue to cook and stir for another 20 minutes. (I skipped this step and just added a fraction of the tamarind and sugar when I made the actual broth. The second time I omitted the tamarind and sugar all together and liked the result MUCH better)
  7. Let cool.
  8. Transfer to storage containers; cover and refrigerate.
  9. Note: If sealed and refrigerated, the mixture will keep for up to a month.
  10. For the Kuching Style Laksa:
  11. Cover the shrimp shells in water, and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
  12. In a heavy bottom pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil, then add in the chicken. Reduce to a simmer, and let it cook for 12 minutes.
  13. Turn off heat, cover pot, and let chicken sit inside for 12-15 minutes.
  14. Remove chicken from the stock, and when cool enough to handle, shred and set aside. Discard bones.
  15. Stir the laksa paste into the stock.
  16. Using a strainer to hold back the shrimp shells, add the shrimp stock into the chicken stock + laksa paste mixture. Cover and let the stock simmer on low heat for 30 minutes
  17. While the stock simmers, whisk two large eggs and 1 tbsp soy sauce in a bowl.
  18. On medium heat, heat oil in thick based pan and pour the egg mixture on top. Let it cook for two minutes, then flip over with a spatula and turn off heat.
  19. Once the soy sauce egg has cooked, let it cool, cut into strips and set aside.
  20. Place rice vermicelli in a bowl, pour hot water on top. Let it sit for 5 minutes, agitate them a bit to keep from sticking, then drain water and toss the vermicelli in a few drops of oil if they seem to be sticking. Set aside.
  21. Strain the stock mixture through a sieve, return to a high flame, and add in shrimps. After 30 seconds, remove shrimp and set aside.
  22. Add coconut milk into the stock mixture, bring to a boil, then remove from heat and prepare to serve.
  23. Divide the bean sprouts, chicken, shrimps and vermicelli among 4 bowls. Pour hot Laksa broth on top. Service with cilantro, lime wedges, chili peppers and sambal belcan.

Anthony Bourdain also said that this isn’t the best laksa recipe ever, and will only give an idea of how great a laksa can be. Sadly, after many hours of slaving away in the kitchen, I have to agree with him on this too. The recipe needs quite a few tweaks to suit my tastebuds; perhaps a lot more lemongrass and galangal? I don’t know, but it falls short of the good laksas I’ve had by a yarkstick. Perhaps I’m just more of a Curry Laksa gal than a Kuching Style one? Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

Edit: I made this again without the tamarind and sugar, and was completely blown away! That’s how I’m going to make this from now on, and I’ll be making this A LOT!

Since you’re here, you must check out what the other noodle-lovin’ party goers made 🙂

Pho Ga | Beyond Sweet and Savory

Vegetarian manchurian withstir fry noodles | Boxofspice

Beef ragu with pappardelle | Cloudy Kitchen

Indonesian boiled noodles (mie rebus) | Piquecooking

Malaysian Laksa with Pumpkin | Vermillionroots

Chestnut Tortellini &Fettuccine in Sage Cream Sauce | Cuococontento

Vegetarian Tteokbokki | Husbandsthatcook

Shrimp Scampi with Tagliatelle | Upcloseandtasty

Juniper Berry and Barley Noodles with Creamy Chantarelles | North Wild Kitchen

Vegan Jjajangmyeon | the Korean Vegan

Duck Noodle Soup | Lindsaysfeast

Avocado pesto cream saucewith homemade fettuccine noodles | Lyndsey Eden

Homemade sobs noodles in alapsang souchong broth with crispy tofu | Twiggstudios

Malaysian Laksa | Passmethedimsum

Shanghai Scallion Oil Noodle (Cong You Ban Mian) | Omnivorescookbook

Oak-Smoked Pasta Cacio e Pepe | Harvest and Honey

Noodle in Burmese coconut and chickpea broth (Oh- no-khao-swe) | Lime and Cilantro

Aceh noodles (Mie Aceh) | Whattocooktoday

Persian Noodle (Reshteh) | Noghlemey

Alfredo Spring Pasta | Mylavendarblues

Meatball Pasta | Insearchofwonders 


  1. It looks really pretty and so does your new blog design! That’s a long list of ingredients, but I like the idea with the juicer. Sorry to hear that the final result failed to impress, but thumbs up for being so honest about it. At least it looks great on photos:):)

  2. Haha omg you are right about the recipe turning into a novel, but I really like the details though. Cannot wait to make this.

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