I’ve walked by Laut many times before since it’s right next to one of my favorite bars in the city (Lillie’s). It wasn’t until recently that I realized it was on my soup list. I’ve been excited to try the traditional Malaysian Asam Laksa since, for some reason, I just thought I’d like every type of laksa out there, especially after LOVING the one at Taste Good. I suppose that’s me falling into something like the All-Asians-Look-Alike stupidity.
There were a few differences from what New York Magazine wrote and what the actual menu indicated. Here’s a lovely chart to compare:
Maybe the “fish flakes” were actually flakes of anchovies and sardines, and maybe the magazine just didn’t feel like listing all of the ingredients. Or maybe Laut changed their recipe after the article was published and decided to charge $2 extra for their new claim to fame. Who knows. What I do know is that I wouldn’t pay another $13 to eat this particular Asam Laksa again.
The laifun noodles (short, thick Chinese rice noodles), which were firm and chewy, and the few chunks of sweet, fresh pineapple were the only two things I liked about this dish. The pineapple helped cut the strange sour/fishy taste, and I wish they included lots more of it. A whole pineapple would’ve been welcome.
The shrimp paste comes in a separate little dish so that you can add however much you want. Even though I taste-tested the paste and winced at the not-so-pleasant plasticky, fishy flavor, I added half of it into the soup, thinking it might be good all mixed in with the other flavors. Definitely not the best decision I made that night. I also made the mistake of not tasting the soup in its pure state first, so I’ll never know if I’d be able to tolerate it more sans paste.
Aside from not liking the shrimp paste itself, the amalgam of ingredients just seemed like a big mess. As you see in my oh-so-helpful chart above, there were a variety of different things added in, but just not enough of each to go around. Not enough sweet pineapple, fresh mint, spicy raw onion and clean cucumber taste in every bite.
Last thing – the soup. It had a very mild kick to it probably from the few big slices of chili pepper. And while that was thankfully nowhere near intolerable, the thick, grainy and fibrous texture was most certainly intolerable to me. I’m all for different textures, but this scared me a little, especially since I had no idea what it was. I kept thinking that I could be eating a bunch of hair and not even know it. Maybe we could all use some more fiber in our diets, but I’ll stick to getting it other ways. I didn’t drink the soup separately like I usually do. It remained in the bowl while I ate everything else. So unlike me. And it speaks volumes.
15 East 17th Street (near Broadway)
New York, NY