Head to the laksa carnival in Langkawi

The complex flavours of assam laksa has won the hearts of food lovers around the world.

Farah Quinn or laksa? Which one would you choose? Both dishy, it will probably break your heart to have to choose between them.

But you can have it all at the Langkawi International Laksa Carnival (Lilac) coming up this weekend where Quinn is one of the celeb chefs. She will be showing you how to make her favourite laksa on the last day of the three-day carnival.

This is the fourth laksa fest the island is hosting, as part of the Iconic Events initiative of its tourism blueprint for charting Langkawi on the world map as a Top 10 destination for island and eco-tourism. Langkawi is out to attract three million tourists and spending of RM3.8 billion by 2015.

Rationalising the food festival at the launch of the event in Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Khalid Ramli, CEO of Langkawi Development Authority (Lada) said that 20% of the Langkawi tourist ringgit is spent on F&B, which translates as some RM600mil based on the target set.

If you are asking why laksa, you probably didn’t know that laksa is one of the favourite local dishes ... as numerous as the coconut trees, or beautiful beaches, or fishing villages. This event will pair Langkawi and laksa beyond the alliteration of words.

‘Papa Joe’ Johari Edrus of Masterchef Malaysia fame (left) says chefs have been adapting laksa for a global palate at many of the country’s hotel F&B outlets.

Laksa is regarded as a traditional Kedah food, and the festival helps to promote the local cuisine and tells a laksa-loving world that we are the land of laksa – laksa came in at a surprising seventh spot on CNN’s World’s Best Foods list (2011).

CNN voted for Penang assam laksa, but growing up on Laksa Kedah, I swear it has a lot more herbal nuances, which is sadly lacking in a lot of laksa these days.

Speaking to Kak Ngah, a laksa expert from Langkawi at the launch, she agreed that up north, they love to add lots of herbs to laksa, in particular, ulam raja, young cashew nut leaves (daun gajus), polygonum (kesum), and selom.

Apa saja lah,” she said, hinting at an adventurous gastronomic spirit.

In fact, the chiffonade of herbs that goes on a laksa is so important that a “secret mix” was flown from Langkawi to add an authentic touch to the laksa served during the launch event.

Guests at the launch of the Langkawi International Laksa Carnival in Atmosphere 360, KL Tower, were teased with three types of laksa: assam laksa, curry laksa and laksa Johore.
Guests at the launch of the Langkawi International Laksa Carnival in Atmosphere 360, KL Tower, were teased with three types of laksa: assam laksa, curry laksa and laksa Johore.

The festival has grown more international in flavour and this year, you can expect to taste laksa from a greater Asean region, with rice noodles coming from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, China and Japan.

But Quinn and laksa alone probably can’t bring in the numbers the authorities hope for – 30,000 visitors, an increase of 7% over last year’s 28,000. So there will be some RM50,000 worth of prizes to be won in laksa eating and cooking contests, among others, and performances by Caliph Buskers and the Teh Tarik King.

And other celebrities have been roped in: Chef Joe of Masterchef Malaysia, Sherson Lian, comedian Farouk Hussain and even Upin and Ipin. Wouldn’t you like to watch the cartoon characters try to slurp a plate of laksa? I would.

The Langkawi International Laksa Carnival is on May 29 to 31, at Laman Padi, Pantai Cenang, Pulau Langkawi, Kedah.

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