Langkawi is the only island in Malaysia that has an international airport. This island welcomes a steady flow of local and foreign visitors throughout the year. It is especially crowded during the school holidays and whenever there are big international festivals happening on this enchanted island.

One of the main attractions of Langkawi is its duty free status – shopaholics can never resist good bargains offered on the island. Besides its retail offerings, Langkawi is also home to many natural and man-made attractions. Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) – the body that is responsible in planning, promoting and implementing development initiatives on the island – helps in making the island into what it is today.

It has been two years since Gaya Traveller visited Langkawi, so when LADA extended an invitation to the recent Langkawi International Laksa Carnival (LILAC 2015), we quickly said yes! It is always nice to come back to Langkawi due to its laid-back yet vibrant pace. This would be our tenth trip to the island, and we were so looking forward to it!

Langkawi International Laksa Carnival (LILAC)

This annual carnival was first held in 2012, with the aim to promote and celebrate the unique laksa, a noodle immersed in gravy dish that varies from one Malaysian state to another.

We were there when the first LILAC was held four years ago, and had a really good time eating the various types of delicious laksa from all of the Malaysian states. This year’s LILAC was pleasantly different: being an international event, the organiser also included the types of laksa from other countries like the Philippines, China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Apart from laksa, there are also local desserts sold at each of the stalls during the event. The only complaint that came out from our mouth was how full our tummies were at the end of our visit.

Celebrities and famous chefs were there at the carnival to add more excitement to the event.

LAKSA OF MALAYSIA

How well do you know your laksa? Have you seen that AirAsia video on youtube where they get a few people to sample a few laksa while being blindfolded? We were quite shocked that the subjects did not fare well at all in guessing the type of laksa they were eating!

While not all states in Malaysia have their very own laksa, they do have some famous noodle dishes. Since we had the chance to attend LILAC and ate almost all types of Malaysian laksa, we feel that it would be good to offer a “Laksa Crash Course” to our readers.

Essentially, laksa consists of noodles and gravy that acts as a nice base to the dish. It is the accompanying garnishes that adds that extra punch to the whole laksa-eating experience. Laksa is great when you want something light yet satisfying to eat, at any time of the day.   

1. LAKSA JOHOR

Noodle type: Spaghetti

Gravy ingredients: Fish, dried shrimps, lemon grass, galangal, curry powder, kerisik, coconut milk, tamarind.

Garnish: Cucumber, bean sprouts, mint leaves, daun kesum (Vietnamese coriander leaves), daun selasih (basil leaves), long beans, pickled white radish, calamansi lime and sambal belacan (grounded chilli mixed with toasted shrimp paste).

To describe it simply, Laksa Johor consists of al dente spaghetti, drenched in curry gravy made from grounded fish paste, herbs, spices and a mix of fresh vegetables. The result is an interesting heavenly blend of sweet, tangy, spicy and savoury flavours combined with crunchy, soft and grainy textures.

2. LAKSA KELANTAN / LAKSAM

Noodle: Rolled up thick flat noodle

Gravy ingredients: Coconut milk, fish, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, black pepper, tamarind slice

Garnish: Cucumber, daun kesum (Vietnamese coriander leaves), ginger torch flower, onion, cabbage, long beans, calamansi lime, and sambal belacan.

What sets Laksam apart from the rest is its distinctive noodle, which when teamed up with the creamy and full-bodied fish-based (sometimes eel) gravy and garnishes, will give you a satisfying meal.

3. LAKSA TERENGGANU

Noodle: Wheat noodles

Gravy ingredients:  Coconut milk, fish, shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, black pepper, tamarind slice

What sets Laksa Kelantan and Terengganu apart is the noodle. The gravy and garnishes are more or less the same. We had the pleasure of eating this dish in a fishing village in Terengganu, and saw how the noodle was made using the traditional way.

4. LAKSA MELAKA / LAKSA NYONYA

Noodle type: Egg noodle and rice vermicelli

Gravy ingredients: Coconut milk, chicken and prawn broth, shallots, turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, dried chillies, candlenuts, shrimp paste, candlenuts, tofu puffs.

Garnish: Blanched bean sprouts, cucumber, daun kesum (Vietnamese coriander leaves), hardboiled egg, sambal.

This type of laksa, with its rich coconut gravy, is slightly sweet and pungent. The aroma is super tempting, unmistakably South East Asian.

5. LAKSA PENANG

Noodle: Rice noodles

Gravy ingredients: Tamarind, fish, shallots, lemongrass, galangal, chilli.

Garnish: Mint, pineapple, onion, lettuce, he-ko (thick sweet prawn paste) and torch ginger flower.

The most light and refreshing laksa of all would be the Laksa Penang. The gravy is essentially hot and sour fish soup. The addition of pineapple and he-ko adds an extra zing on your palate.

6. LAKSA UTARA ; LAKSA KEDAH, LAKSA PERLIS, LAKSA PERAK

The laksa from these three states are somewhat similar, and it is hard to tell the difference if you are not from these states. They are also similar to Penang laksa and only differ in terms of the garnishing used. In some places, the gravy is made from eel instead of the usual fish. Hardboiled egg can be found in all three laksa, unlike Laksa Penang.

The differences are:

Laksa Penang has pineapple slices and he-ko.

Laksa Perak has runny, thin gravy and uses wheat-based noodle.

Laksa Kedah uses belacan (shrimp paste), and daun selom (Oenanthe javanica or Java water dropwort) is used as garnish. Sambal kelapa, which is a spicy coconut paste, is also added.

Laksa Perlis has daun selom and daun putat (Barringtonia conoidea), which are local herbs. Some locals like to eat Laksa Perlis with Pulut Udang (a savoury snack made from glutinous rise with fillings of spicy coconut and dried prawn floss) on the side.

7. LAKSA SARAWAK

Noodle: Rice Vermicelli

Gravy ingredients: Chicken and prawn broth, coconut milk, shallots, garlic, galangal, chilli, lemon grass, candlenuts, sesame seed, peanut, cumin, coriander seed, star anise, clove, cardamom, tamarind.

Garnish: Bean sprouts, omelette strips, prawns, fresh coriander and lime.

The taste of this laksa is definitely different from the laksa that can be found in Peninsular Malaysia. What made it distinct is the use of various types of dry spices in the gravy – so many that it is quite hard to guess what actually went into the gravy pot. Truly, it is an acquired taste!

MUST DO IN LANGKAWI… WHEN YOU’RE ONLY STAYING FOR 2 NIGHTS

Besides stuffing our face with the irresistible laksa (and other fantastic local food around the island), we managed to squeeze in some fun during our short stay in Langkawi. While there are so many things to do in Langkawi, it is best to just limit yourself to only one or two activities a day… and enjoy them fully!

A must visit would be the newly improved Oriental Village. A lot of improvements can be seen since the last time we were there, the most popular one being Art in Paradise, which is an interactive 3D art museum. Art in Paradise is a 21,000 square feet indoor space, which has more than 100 3D interactive paintings. The visitors seemed to be enjoying themselves posing and photographing creatively according to the paintings at the museum – we even had fun ourselves! You need to take off your shoes before entering the museum, so bring your own socks! Be prepared to spend at least a couple of hours here, which is a great place for family fun.

Another attraction located within the Oriental Village that we highly recommend is the Sky Cab’s Crystal Glass Gondola. Sky Cab is the new name for the cable car attraction. With the new name comes a new system. There is now a boarding time system

implemented. As you buy the tickets, you will be assigned to a boarding time, so you don’t need to wait in long queue for your turn. There are many shops and stalls nearby that you can go to while waiting for your cable car ride.

The view from the Crystal Glass Gondola is awesome! What makes the Crystal Glass Gondola different from the usual gondola is its glass-bottom that allows travellers to fully appreciate the view and height during the ride. Those who are afraid of heights are not recommended to take this gondola and should just opt for the other regular gondolas.

The cable car ride has always been our must-experience attraction whenever we visit Langkawi. For more information on Oriental Village attractions, do visit www.panoramalangkawi.com

The sunset in Langkawi is majestic, and sunset cruises are a good idea if you are looking for something relaxing yet fun to end your day. We boarded Naam Langkawi’s Sea Falcon for a three-hour dinner cruise. We were very impressed at the sight of their cruise boat, and even more impressed with their welcome and hospitality. We were given cold towels and welcome drink as soon as we boarded the boat. Langkawi’s heat quickly disappeared and we were totally refreshed, ready to have some fun! Do bring along your swimming suits if you would like to jump into the water for a quick swim. Dinner is a buffet with a good selection of western food, enough to keep rumbling tummies happy. It was a nice end to our day, which afforded us great scenery, great company and great food!  For more information on Naam Langkawi’s services, visit www.naam.bz

For other activities and attractions in Langkawi, you may check out naturallylangkawi.my for information and suggestion. Langkawi is definitely a destination that is brimming with interesting things to do, thus a return to Langkawi is always on the cards.

NAAM HEADQUARTERS
Web : www.naam.bz

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