My search for an incredible laksa is still underway. As I had anticipated, my search looks like it will be quite the challenge as Vancouver is a city of ramen, not laksa. And whilst I enjoy the occasional bowl of steaming ramen (particularly on a grey, cold day) I am more inclined to crave laksa rather than ramen.
Laksa?! If you are like most people that I know in Vancouver, you may be scratching your head wondering what the hell I am going on about. So, here is a quick “Introduction to Laksa 101”:
- Laksa is a noodle-based spicy soup.
- The noodles can be vermicelli or egg noodles.
- Apparently there are numerous types of laksa, however the two most popular type are the curry laksa (made from coconut milk) or asam laksa (a sour fish soup).
- It is typically found in Singapore or Malaysia.
- You can pretty much have anything in it; seafood, chicken, barbecued pork, tofu, boiled eggs, assorted vegetables…the list goes on.
- It’s delicious.
Laksa is extremely subjective; how one person likes their laksa is likely to be different to how another person will like theirs. So what am I looking for in a laksa? Personally, I am only interested in the curry laksa and, to me, the broth is the most important element of a laksa. I love a fragrant, thick, spicy coconut milk broth. My biggest complaints with Vancouver laksa has been that they are not thick enough, not spicy enough (this is usually fixable with some chilli paste), and not enough depth of flavour in the laksa paste. Most of them just simply fall flat on taste.
For the noodles, I prefer egg noodles because I like them thicker, and for the toppings I don’t enjoy seafood in my laksa (I had a bad food-poisoning experience with seafood laksa once before) but I love chicken, tofu, boiled egg, and a few vegetables. A garnish, like cilantro and chilli slices, adds flavour but also much-needed colour. A laksa with no garnish is a sad laksa indeed.
My search has continued and with only weeks until the end of 2011, I’ve amped it up. I was at Banana Leaf on West Broadway at Willow Street on the weekend and ordered what used to be one of my go-to laksa (mostly because it was the closest thing to what I am used to). Unfortunately, the laksa standards at Banana Leaf have been slowly dropping and the one that I had on Saturday (not to mention ones that I’ve recently had prior to this one) was very disappointing.
I have been ordering chicken laksa everywhere that I go so that the reviews can be consistent and comparable. This was a Singapore Laksa with chicken.
Room for improvement:
- The broth was far too runny. It would have been better slightly thicker.
- There was absolutely no heat/spice to the broth. This was what really let the whole dish down. More spice and more depth of flavour was needed.
- I was not asked how hot I wanted the laksa (mild, medium, or spicy). This likely would have helped with the complaint above.
- No egg noodles, just vermicelli.
- There were far too many vegetables. More chicken would have been preferable, especially as I paid the same price as a seafood laksa but had opted for no seafood.
- The garnish was waaay too much. Yes, garnish is great. A bunch of cilantro, on the other hand, is over-kill.
Price: $11 (without tax)
I’m sad to say that all three locations of Banana Leaf have let their laksa standards slip. It was most certainly not incredible. And the search goes on…