Laksa Johor is Johor's unique signature dish, not found anywhere else in Malaysia, or the world. Laksa Johor is something special, uniquely Johor heritage food.
According to legend, shared by famous celebrity Chef Wan, Sultan Abu Bakar travelled to Europe in the 1800s. There in Italy, Sultan Abu Bakar took a liking to Spaghetti Bolognaise. When Sultan Abu Bakar returned to Johor from Europe, he directed his Chef to modify this spaghetti dish with a fish based gravy. And so, the uniquely Johorean Laksa Johor was created - an early example of East-West fusion cuisine.
Ironically, my makan kakis and I have been lamenting about how hard it is to get a good authentic Laksa Johor, right here in Johor. Actually, this should not be a surprise to anyone. This is because making Laksa Johor is a tedious and labour intensive task. Laksa Johor uses many ingredients like Ikan Kembung, salted fish, belacan, fresh shrimps, dried shrimps, chilies, lemon grass, and various spices and herbs. Assembling the many ingredients for Laksa Johor is in itself, already a daunting task.
Then, there is the preparation and cooking. Preparing the ingredients is very labour intensive and so is usually assigned to different members of the family, and extended family. Making Laksa Johor is a community affair. One person will grind the fish, another grate the coconuts, someone else will pound the chilies and spices, and so on. And, finally, only the person who has mastered the art and skill of cooking the gravy correctly will cook it.
Since it is so labour intensive and skill intensive, Laksa Johor is usually only made at home, and then only on special occasions and during festivals. Little wonder then that Laksa Johor sold in stalls and restaurants, often has to be a watered down version for it to be commercially viable.
Fortunately and thanks to my friend Kumes, I was introduced to a very good Laksa Johor stall and I want to to share it with you :) This Laksa Johor is in Restoran Bumbu Asli along Jalan Kolam Air. Well, Bumbu Asli's Laksa Johor is home made in a sense. All the ingredients and gravy were prepared at the owner's home and then brought to the shop to serve.
The gravy which is the soul of Laksa Johor was gritty from the ground fish, salted fish and dried shrimps, spicy from the chilies, tangy from the calamansi, naturally sweet from herbs, and savoury from blending all the ingredients together. Pair this marvellous gravy with relatively bland but al dente spaghetti and we have Laksa Johor magic.
Click on picture for video on making Laksa Johor
Restaurant name: Restoran Bumbu AsliAddress: 36-L, Jalan Kolam Ayer, Johor Bahru
Hours: 7:00am to 4:00pm (closed on alternate Sundays)
Date visited: 3 Oct 2012