Monday, February 16, 2009

Curry Laksa

Curry laksa is one of locals’ favourite foods. It is quite similar to curry chicken mee. However, there are some differences between curry laksa and curry chicken mee. Curry chicken mee contains only chicken and noodles whereas curry laksa contains more ingredients such as bean sprouts, fried bean curd cubes (taufu-pok), chickens, long beans, cockles as well as optional types of noodles. Moreover, the amount of coconut milk used in cooking curry laksa is more compared to curry chicken mee.

Metabolism Involved
The main sources of carbohydrates come from noodles. Carbohydrates can provide energy after digestion and absorption. The digestion starts in the mouth where the starch is broken down to smaller units by saliva containing enzyme amylase. Carbohydrates pass through the stomach and into the small intestine. Most digestion and absorption occurs in small intestine where digestive enzymes are secreted from the pancreas and small intestine to breakdown starch into smaller units. Pancreatic amylase (from pancreas) breaks starch into disaccharides and small polysaccharides whereas enzymes from small intestine break the remaining disaccharides into monosaccharide components. Sugars such as galactose, glucose, and fructose that are produced by the breakdown of polysaccharides enter into absorptive intestinal cells. After absorption, they are transported to the liver where galactose and fructose are converted to glucose and released into the bloodstream. Glucose is able to produce energy for the body through a series of processes. Glucose undergoes glycolysis, Krebs cycle and electron transport system to produce ATP (activated carrier which gives organisms energy). The glucose may be sent directly to organs that need energy, it may convert into glycogen (in a process called glycogenesis) for storage in the liver or muscles, or store as fat in adipose tissue.

Figure 1: Metabolism of carbohydrates (UNISA, 2008)

In addition, curry laksa also provides protein source which mainly come from chicken as well as fried bean curd (taufu-pok). Protein breaks down into amino acids by digestion. Initial physical breakdown of protein begins in the mouth. Then, the stomach secretes pepsinogen which will then convert into pepsin. Pepsin helps in breaking protein into amino acids. Once the food moves into duodenum, duodenum and pancreas work together to breakdown protein into single amino acid molecules with the help of trypsin. Amino acid molecules absorb into the small intestine and pass into the bloodstream. The amino acids are then carried by blood to the body in order to rearrange into human proteins as well as use in building its structure. Excess amino acids will be metabolized to glycogen or fat and used for energy metabolism. Amino acids will be used to produce energy when starvation. The carbon skeletons are converted to acetyl CoA, which enters the Krebs cycle for oxidation to produce ATP.

Furthermore, noodles and fried bean curd (taufu-pok) contribute most fats in curry laksa. Digestion of fats starts in the small intestine with the aid of lipases and bile acids where fats breakdown into smaller units. The smaller units are absorbed through the wall of the intestine then they are reassembled into triglycerides and carried into the body through the lymph system on chylomicrons. Lipid can metabolize through several pathways such as lipolysis, betaoxidation, ketosis, and lipogenesis. Lipolysis (fat breakdown) and beta-oxidation occurs in the mitochondria. It is a cyclical process in which two carbons are removed from the fatty acid per cycle in the form of acetyl CoA, which proceeds through the Krebs cycle to produce ATP (Patel, 2008). The rate of formation of ketones by the liver is greater than the ability of tissues to oxidize them, ketosis occurs. This happens when large amounts of fats are consumed in the absence of carbohydrate or during prolonged starvation. Lipogenesis is the process by which glucose is converted to fatty acids, which are subsequently esterified to glycerol to form the triacylglycerols that are packaged in VLDL and secreted from the liver (Wikipedia_Lipogenesis, 2009). Lipogenesis encompasses the processes of fatty acid synthesis and triglyceride synthesis (Wikipedia_Lipogenesis, 2009).

Figure 2: Catabolic processes of proteins, carbohydrates and fats (Hardy, 2005)

Nutritional Value and Benefits of the Ingredients of Curry Laksa:

The main ingredient for curry laksa, chicken especially chicken breast is a very good source of protein. Protein helps in growth of bone, acts as enzymes, hormones, regulators of fluid balance, acid-base regulators and transport proteins, defend the body against disease by producing antibodies as well as source of energy. In addition, chicken also contains the cancer-protective B vitamin, niacin. Niacin is important in components of DNA. Deficiency of niacin as well as other B-complex vitamins leads to genetic (DNA) damage (Mateljan, 2007). Trace mineral, selenium also can be found in chicken. It is an essential component of several major metabolic pathways, including thyroid hormone metabolism, antioxidant defense systems, and immune function (Mateljan, 2007).

Cockles in the curry laksa have a high content of selenium, vitamin B12, iodine and iron. Selenium is an antioxidant and helps to regenerate vitamins E and C so that they can fight with free radicals (Obikoya, 2009). Besides that, iron also helps to promote growth of red blood cells.

Other than cockles, long beans in the curry laksa are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals as well as low in fat and calories. It provides a good source of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and potassium, and a very good source for vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and manganese (Wikipedia_ Yardlong bean, 2009). Fiber helps to reduce the glycemic effect of meals and contributes to colon health. Moreover, it seems to help in lower the cholesterol and triglycerides level and also may help to prevent ulcers, particularly in the beginning of the small intestine (duodenal ulcers), diabetes, heart disease and colorectal cancer (Dolson, 2007). Besides that, fiber also helps in management of constipation, increasing the stool output and also beneficial for irritable bowel syndrome.

Bean sprouts in curry laksa contain significant amount of proteins, vitamin C and number of essential B vitamins which are needed by body for proper functioning of various body system (Ayushveda, 2008). Bean sprouts forms the ideal food for those who go on for dieting as it is very low in calories and be eaten without putting any dressing.

Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) of Curry Laksa:

1 bowl of curry laksa contains approximately:

Ø 41% of total energy required daily
Ø 17% of carbohydrate required daily
Ø 84% of protein required daily
Ø 67% of fat required daily

As we are taking 3 meals in a day, energy and nutrients required from a bowl of curry laksa should only fulfill 1/3 of daily diet. This means that, a bowl of curry laksa should only contain approximately 33% of energy and nutrients required daily. However, we can see that the total energy, protein and fat contents in a bowl of curry laksa that we usually eat are higher than what we require whereas carbohydrate is lower than what we require.

In this case, curry laksa can be modified to enable us to have maximum benefits of it and at the same time reducing the adverse effects of it. First, we can use white soya bean curd (white taufu) instead of fried soya bean cubes (taufu-pok). As taufu-pok is very high in fat, it provides too much energy that it raise the calories (energy) contain in curry laksa highly. So, using white taufu instead of taufu-pok can lower the fat content in curry laksa, therefore reducing the calories in curry laksa. White taufu contains no cholesterol and is very low in fats. It contains proteins, carbohydrates, polyunsaturated fatty acids, various minerals and vitamins, nutrients that are easily absorbed by the human bodies. Second, we can choose to use rice noodles rather than other types of noodles as it is high in carbohydrate but low in fat. Long beans, fried soya bean cubes, chicken and bean sprout are all high protein food, so, by decreasing the amount of some of these food, the protein contents in curry laksa can be lowered. Therefore, the amount of chicken and white taufu replacing taufu-pok is decreased to obtain lower content of protein in curry laksa. The amount of long beans, cockles and bean sprouts are not modified because they contribute least in nutrients of the curry laksa as they are used in small amount. However, we need to make sure that the cockles are fully cooked before they are eaten because it may cause Hepatitis A. Lastly, not to leave out fruits in a meal, banana will be good to balance out the modified curry laksa.

Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) of Modified Curry Laksa:

1 bowl of modified curry laksa and banana contains approximately:

Ø 28% of total energy required daily
Ø 30% of carbohydrate required daily
Ø 32% of protein required daily
Ø 14% of fat required daily

Written by,

Elsie & Cheng Siew

Ayushveda, 2008. Health Benefits of Bean Sprouts [Online]. Available from:
<> [Accessed on 7 February 2009]

Dolson, L., 2007. Fiber [Online] Available from:
<> [Accessed on 7 February 2009]

Hardy, J.K., 2005. Carbohydrate Metabolism [Online]. Available from:
<> [Accessed on 7 February 2009]

Mateljan, G., 2007.Chicken [Online]. Available from:
<> [Accessed on 7 February 2009]

NutriWeb Malaysia, 2009. Malaysian Food Composition Database [Online]. Available from:
<>[Accessed on 14 February 2009]

Obikoya, G., 2009. The Benefits of Selenium [Online]. Available from:
<> [Accessed on 7 February 2009]

Patel, G., 2008. Metabolism [Online]. Available from:
<>[Accessed on 7 February 2009]

Wikipedia_Lipogenesis, 2009. Lipogenesis [Online]. Available from:
<> [Accessed on 7 February 2009]

Wikipedia_ Yardlong bean, 2009. Yardlong bean [Online]. Available from:
<> [Accessed on 7 February 2009]

UNISA, 2008. Carbohydrate Metabolism [Online]. Available from:
<> [Accessed on 7 February 2009]

United States Department of Agriculture, 2009. Nutrient Data Laboratory [Online]. Available from:
<>[Accessed on 14 February 2009]


  1. Thanks for this post let me know more about the details in one bowl of curry laksa.
    that also surprising me when I know about the 'modified curry laksa'
    In this case,we not just can eat deliciously but also healthy.
    i think i will do in this way and i wanna say my last word, this kind of post helping us in life!

  2. What a good analysis you have done on curry laksa which is a common food in Malaysia. Moreover, the modified recipe of curry laksa sound interesting and I wish to have a try on it.

    Just want to drop you a question i.e. the size of serving is different from each hawker's stalls. Moreover, if we kind of like order the curry laksa in big, medium and small size, will it be the same amount of enery we obtained. And will the RNI of the carry laksa be influenced as well? The one you have shown is referred to which serving size? Thanks!!!

    Keep up the good work. Well done!!
    William Ng

  3. Wow, a very detail analysis of one of the favourite food in Malaysia, curry laksa. I believe that it is a great work and research that have been done.

    It give me some idea on how to eat a health food. Thank

    Keep on . Gambate

  4. good job, amazing! nutritionist can rescue the city by providing prof comment and consultation. modified all the unhealthy food to super food.
    thank you for sharing~

  5. Thx all for the comments. Regarding William's questions, the curry laksa that we referred above is of medium size. The energy obtained from the curry laksa differ with different serving size. The larger the serving size, the higher the energy provided. Therefore, the RNI will also be affected.

  6. wow..curry laksa is my favourite!haha..thx for the guys did well..taufu replaces taufu-pok..this is a useful and creative modification! cheers!

  7. good job! use white tauhu instead of tauhu-pok to reduce the calories. a very creative idea.

  8. wah so informative ur blog.
    good job.
    the modified curry laksa seem like very delicious ler,
    I wish to have a try on it.

  9. huh~~~~~~~~~~ ur modified curry laksa very suitable for me la... i NEED IT. coz i like to eat curry laksa very mush but seldom eat, it is too high in calories and fat.. is ok, i wait for this modified curry laksa to commercialize.. hahaha~~~ waiting~~~~ waiting~~~~~~

  10. wow..ur modification reduce the energy content to approx 250kcal ya..
    Good modification ya!
    makes me not to worry about its energy content if ur curry laksa is available in the market!

  11. If only hawkers are run by nutritionist.....then we don't have to worry so much about how unhealthy our food is.

  12. The *laksa* u refer to is actually CURRY MEE in Penang. Penang laksa is totally different. The smell is very strong, like durian, with that *rojak sauce*.

    Oh yeah, the rojak in Penang is also different. My friend hates it. She said we put squids and everything into it, like... too rojak :P In her hometown Ipoh, it's only FRUITS. Weird, eating rojak without mixing EVERYTHING, and some more call it *rojak*? Oops, outta topic. Sorry. Here's a pic of Penang Laksa for your tummy...

    And your sis!
    Enjoy ^^

    Penang Laksa

  13. yes, the penang laksa is actually what we called asam laksa. It's totally different from curry laksa.I miss the asam laksa taste :)

  14. Hmmm...great analysis. I've never thought of anything about nutrients or whatsoever while eating a bowl of mee. haha. To me, it's only a bowl of mee. =)
    Can't wait to have a try on the modified curry laksa though. =)

  15. Thank you for this information, very helpful!

  16. Is there any nutritional functions of curry leaves??

  17. Curry leaves only act as seasoning that gives the aroma similar to tangerine. They do not contain any nutritional functions.

  18. Very informative. :-)

    I've a rather odd question. What about if we put peppermint leaves? Does it have any nutritional benefits of some sort that will lower the amount of fat contained in curry laksa?

  19. Curry laksa, one of my favourite Malaysian dishes. Great analysis, these are the details I was looking for
    Cy, I don't know if the taste would agree with me, I love pepermind leaves with my penang assam laksa but I haven't tried it with curry laksa before, never occured to me. Perhaps give it a try and post your findings ?