One measure of a country is how well one can eat on its roads. Italy, with its autostrada pit stops serving toasted panini and espresso (and selling hunks of aged parmesan Reggiano and every sort of salumi under the sun), scores pretty high. So does Thailand. On our last tour up north we rarely drove more than half an hour without encountering a tempting edible, everything from barbecued chicken to ice-cold corn juice (incredibly refreshing).
Our beloved Malaysia disappoints in this department. The main north-south highway is dotted with official rest stops that dish up nothing of worth. Finding eats in the kampung (villages) lining smaller roads is more often a miss than a hit. Most boast a tom yam or ikan bakar shack or two that appear to be after dark-only operations. The daytime driver can travel quite a while without running into a snack. So this laksa lean-to, on highway 58 north to Setiawan, was a pleasant surprise.
The menu here is short - laksa, fried bananas, and kueh (sweets). To drink, air nira nipa and coconut juice. From the table inside, we enjoy a calming view of endless emerald rice paddies and shudder at the sound of unnervingly close high-speed traffic.
The elderly couple running the place is friendly and he, despite protestations to the contrary, speaks excellent English. They've been in business for over a decade and enjoy a steady parade of customers (on a Sunday, at least).
She describes her laksa as Penang-style. It's extremely spicy and very sour a la the northern island, but the broth is uncharacteristically clear. What this bowlful has going for it is big chunks of fish, a pronounced tang that I suspect is derived more from tamarind than from the sour slices known as asam keping, and loads of sliced fresh chilies that tingle our tongues and burn our lips.
Just the thing to recharge the batteries of a tiring driver facing another couple hours behind the wheel.
Laksa shack, highway 58, about 45 minutes from Setiawan. (There are others in the general vicinity.)