First off, I want to say thank you to all our readers, who have been bearing with us while we get settled in to our new home in Kuching. Even though Annie has been cooking most nights of the week, there haven’t been too many House of Annie recipe posts lately. Most of our posts have been about goingout someplace to eat.
The main reason for this is, the big shipping crate carrying all our stuff (including kitchen appliances, all our normal herbs and spices, and the home computer with all our archived food pics on it) from San Jose hasn’t arrived yet. On top of that, the one tiny fluorescent lamp in our wet kitchen (where most of the cooking is done) has gone out, so it’s nearly impossible for me to get good pics of whatever Annie is prepping for dinner.
I never intended for this blog to be a restaurant review site. Most of you readers probably couldn’t fly here to Kuching to eat at the places we’re eating out at. That being said, I do want to tell you about a place we’ve found that serves some good Sarawak laksa.
Grace Place Sarawak Laksa
What is Laksa?
According to Wikipedia, laksa is a spicy, soup noodle dish, originating from the merging of Chinese and Malay cultures (also known as Peranakan or Nyonya) which is found primarily in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Okay now, show of hands: How many of you know have tasted laksa? All right, now how many of you have tasted Sarawak laksa? That’s what I thought, very few.
Like me, most people are familiar with the curry laksa, a coconut-and-curry-based dish found in Singapore or KL. There’s also assam laksa, that sweet-spicy-sourish, fish-based dish found in Penang (I am absolutely in love with assam laksa from Penang!). But I didn’t know about Sarawak laksa until one day on maybe my second trip to Malaysia, when Annie’s cousin in KL took us to a stall in Bangsar that was known for its Sarawak laksa.
At first, I didn’t know if I’d like it. The broth was thin and brownish. There were a few prawns in it, plus shreds of chicken and strips of egg omelette. There was coconut in it, but no sharp curry flavor like curry laksa. Instead it was a mysterious but harmonious blend of spices, punctuated by a generous helping of fresh coriander. After first tasting it, and then finishing the entire bowl, I knew it was something I could enjoy again and again.
Looking for Laksa
When we first arrived in Kuching, we tried some Sarawak laksa from a stall near the hotel. It wasn’t very good – heavy on the white pepper, which covered up the nuances of flavor. Disappointing, but not daunting.
Later on, we moved into a house rented from a friend. We were cleaning up the place one day, when the friend brought over some lunch (what did I tell you about Kuching hospitality?). It was Sarawak laksa (of course, being already in Sarawak, they just call it laksa here).
This laksa was awfully good. I finished it all in no time, and was left longing for more. Our friend said that the laksa was made by a relative who owned a laksa stall. She gave us the location so we knew where to find the place.
Grace Place Sarawak Laksa Stall
One thing I have to note here. In Kuching, everybody eats early. This is especially true if you want to eat
Sarawak laksa. The best laksa stalls are sold out by midmorning; after 10 am, you may either get the dregs, or you may get nothing.
So we were very fortunate when we recently showed up at 10:30 at the laksa stall, to find Aunty Rose still tending there. But as you can see, there wasn’t much soup left in her pot! She was literally scraping bottom to fill our order.
Grace Place Sarawak Laksa
Aunty Rose put a lot of effort into making a quality laksa. Every day, she would wake up at 4:30am to heat up her soup. By 6:30, she would be at the stall, selling her laksa. She’ll finish at around 2 pm, then head home to start prepping the ingredients for the next day. By 8 pm, she’d be done prepping and off to rest before the next day comes and the cycle begins again.
I don’t think I could survive that kind of life. But Aunty Rose does it with calm grace, and a smile.
Aunty Rose’s Laksa
Her laksa is thoroughly enjoyable from the first bite to the last slurp. Mix in a little homemade sambal belacan, add a squirt of kalamansi lime juice, and dig in. The thin rice vermicelli noodles still have a little crunch to them. The shredded chicken is flavorful in its own right. The bean sprouts, normally an afterthought, have their tips meticulously picked (another sign of the care she puts into her food).
And the broth? Oh the broth! Rich, savory, coconutty, with a pleasant chilli heat to it, it is slurp-alicious! This is not a broth to be left alone once you’re done eating the noodles. This is a broth that is good to the last drop. Next thing you know, it’s all gone.
You push back from your bowl with a sigh, face slightly sweaty, nose lightly runny, lips and throat tingly. You’re satisfied for now, but you know you want to come back for more.
Grace Place Sarawak Laksa
Unfortunately, you can’t have any more. You see, as of the end of September, Aunty Rose has retired from her stall. (Notice the “Stall for Rent” banner in the pic below.) I literally got the very last bowl of Aunty Rose’s laksa!
I asked Aunty Rose what she is going to do in her retirement. She laughs. “I’m going to clean my house!” Too many years of dedication to the stall, and to her laksa, left her with little time to do anything else.
I say she deserves her break. Of course, it would be a shame to just let her recipe be lost, wouldn’t it? So we asked her if she would share it.
That’s right. We got her laksa recipe!
And we’re going to share it. Because you see, our shipping crate has arrived in Kuching and will be delivered shortly. We have a contractor who is coming to replace and upgrade the lighting in the kitchen. Soon, we’ll be posting recipes (including laksa!) once more.
Life is good!