Updated: Jan 17
I think it's time to make a change.
We can't leave Penang without having a bowl of authentic Assam Laksa. That's just wrong. When tourists speak about Penang Assam Laksa, naturally the "famous" stall at Jalan Pasar next to Air Itam market will come into picture. While we agree this stall serves decent Assam Laksa, we can't get over the thought of it being rather "touristy".
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If you don't already know, there is actually another stall right opposite the famous one, in Air Itam Market Annex Food Court. The stall is named after its owner who was born with speaking impairment, hence Laksa Bisu ("bisu" means mute in Malay language). In an interview with his sister in a documentary, she explained how the disability has led to his undivided focus on refining the Assam Laksa he makes. However, the owner (a.k.a uncle), was not too happy when the name "Bisu" was established. He didn't want people to support his business because of his disabilities, instead he wanted people to appreciate and recognise his recipe and skill.
We did not want to make it awkward so photos were taken quietly. Uncle is now assisted by his sister and a young man, so ordering is not a problem. Or we should say, ordering is never a problem if customers know they have to use hand signs. Our bowl of Assam Laksa was prepared by the young man. He skilfully blanched the laksa noodles with boiling broth made of mackerel, tamarind paste, daun kesom and etc. This helped the noodles to absorb more flavours before being served in a bowl, together with the sour-spicy-savoury broth and many other condiments, such as cucumber, pineapple, onion, chilli, mint leaves, torch ginger and hei ko (shrimp paste). It looked legit.
We loved the tangy and savoury broth, simmered to perfect thickness with a generous amount of mackerel flesh. The lavish amount of topping and condiments made the mouthfeel more complex and refreshing. We actually prefer this version of Assam Laksa compared to the one from opposite stall. It's more savoury, while the "famous" one is more sweetish.
= / Our favourite spot to sample local Nasi Kandar is at Hameediyah Restaurant @ Penang / =
It's a true delight. Shadowed by the more popular and touristy stall across the street, Laksa Bisu won our hearts due to its flavour and the passion uncle put into every bowl he makes. Next time when you're here to visit Kek Lok Si Temple, why not stopping by Air Itam Market Annex Food Court to give this Assam Laksa a try?
Laksa Bisu @ Air Itam, Penang
📍 Address: Pekan Ayer Itam, 11500 Air Itam, Penang
⏰ Opening Hours: 10AM - 5PM (Daily), close on Mondays
🚗 Parking: Few parking spaces available at roadside, if you can't find any, just use private parking service around the area. Do not park illegally.
Ambience: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2
Quality of Food: ⭐ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Price: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️