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In Transit Malaysia

At KLIA: Old Malaya Kopitiam’s signature Nyonya Laksa

April 20, 2018
Old Malaya Kopitiam, Kuala Lumpur International Airport

Nyonya laksa is a spice-laden noodle dish with curry and coconut milk. While laksa is popular in both Malaysia and Singapore, it comes in several varieties. Nyonya laksa is the signature dish of the Nyonyas — female descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago between the 15th and 17th centuries.

If by chance you’ll have a layover at the Kuala Lumpur Internation Airport, make it a point to try this dish at the Old Malaya Kopitiam located near the gates C-11 to C-17.

Nyonya Laksa by Old Malaya Kopitiam
KLIA Jungle Boardwalk

That was my first ever bowl of Nyonya laksa, a signature dish of the Old Malaya Kopitiam inside the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It was savory, scrumptious and all the flavorful adjectives blended in one bowl. The creamy and rich coconut milk blending with the distinct taste of red curry paste, the citrus punch of lemongrass, and a bit of spicy kick allow your taste buds to enjoy a glorious feast. It was so good my runny nose was literally welling.

According to my sleuthing, Nyonya Laksa is a dish that transcends a very interesting history of a marital union between two regions.

History has it that during the Ming Dynasty, the Emperor of China betrothed her daughter to the Sultan of Malacca as a form of strategic ties between the two regions. The couple settled in the Malayan Peninsula and eventually, the royal entourage wed the locals and formed the first permanent settlement and the first generation of mixed Chinese-Malay race. During the settlement, the Nyonyas developed their unique cuisine which combines the Chinese traditional cooking and the local Malay ingredients.

Old Malaya Kopitiam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)

I first encountered the dish during a long layover at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The humidity I subjected myself to while exploring the popular Jungle Boardwalk made me really hungry and I was craving for a hot bowl of Asian noodle soup. It so happened that Old Malaya Kopitiam was situated on the mezzanine right next to the boardwalk so I went there to peruse the menu. The curry and coconut description for the Nyonya Laksa was all it took for me to order a bowl of this Malaysian dish and it didn’t disappoint.

Old Malaya Kopitiam is a popular café in Malaysia. It boasts of its traditional “kopi tiam” setting (marble table tops and wooden furnishings) and serves local Malaysian cuisines such as the Chicken Rice and Lamb Biryani, Roti Bakar with Kaya (toast with a coconut and egg spread) served alongside half boiled eggs and a cup of coffee. And of course, Nyonya Laksa.

Nyonya Laksa is a must try when having a stop at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Old Malaya Kopitiam’s Nyonya Laksa is one of the two reasons (the other being the Jungle Boardwalk) why KLIA became my favorite airport in the world up to date. And I have always been looking forward to flying Malaysia Airlines to have a long airport layover in this airport.

And would you believe it? Laksa means ten thousand in the ancient Tagalog way of counting. What a coincidence.

Also published in Medium.